Jan 20, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has commenced hearing arguments in the case filed by seven domestic air carriers over the decision by former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, to change the name of the Ogle International Airport to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport.
According to facts related to the case, seven of the domestic airline services in Guyana and an association formed by them, are seeking a judicial review of the Minister’s approval of that name change.
The domestic aircraft operators complained that the act of changing the name of the airport by the Minister breached the law of fairness, since he failed to consult with them and consider the impact it would have on their business before doing so.
However, the orders they sought to have the decision of the Minister overturned were refused by a judge in the High Court and the Appeal Court.On 25 August 2020, the applicants applied for special leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal on many grounds, but the CCJ granted special leave only on the grounds addressing whether the Minister had a duty to consult with the applicants before approving the suggested name change.
In his arguments at the CCJ yesterday, London House Chambers’ lead Attorney, Devindra Kissoon, who represented the local airline operators told the Court that the operators ought to have been consulted in the view of fairness.
In this regard, Kissoon noted that it is the public authority’s duty to consult those interested before taking a decision that can impact them in a variety of ways.
“Most commonly,” he said, “the duty is generated by statute.”
He continued, “Not infrequently, however, it is generated by the duty cast by the common law upon a public authority to act fairly. The search for the demands of fairness in this context is often illumined by the doctrine of legitimate expectation; such was the source, for example, of its duty to consult the residents of a care home for the elderly before deciding whether to close it.”
Relying on several legal authorities, the attorney told the Court that Patterson’s duty to consult arises from legitimate expectation that consultations would occur through a promise.
Kissoon noted that the Minister intimated to the local operators that a substantive and comprehensive review would take place before any formal decision is taken but failed to honour that promise.
To substantiate this point, the lawyer alluded to official correspondence between the Minister and the local operators
To this end, he noted, “It is clear from the exchange of correspondence that the genesis of the Minister’s promise was the appellants’ complaint of the airport renaming.”
Kissoon argued that despite commencing the process, and even appointing independent counsel, the Minister abruptly withdrew without giving the appellants an opportunity to be heard in the manner promised….”
In response to the submissions, Solicitor General attached to the Chambers of the Attorney General, Nigel Hawke, who appeared on behalf of the State, argued that Patterson was only obliged to accept the bona fide view of the Ogle Airport Inc. Board, which indicated that the decision was a unanimous one in relation to the name change. He argued that the board was a lawful board and all members must be assumed to have acted in relation to their fiduciary duties when the decision was made.
“There was no requirement in the act or the lease for the minister to consult with anyone regarding the unanimous decision of the board. The minister would have been taken to act arbitrarily if the board did not sanction the name change,” Hawke added.
He continued that the evidence clearly suggest that the Board of Ogle Airport Inc. gave its sanction to the name change which underscores the fact that the board held its consultation with its members and shareholders. The Solicitor General therefore submitted that the minister is obliged to accept the decision of the board of Ogle Airport Inc. and not the National Air Transport Service, which represents the local air carriers.
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