Benefits delay forces judge out of retirement

Awaiting a decision by the Finance Ministry to finally pay benefits due to him, retired judge Jainarayan Singh Jnr has been forced to return to private practice to sustain himself.

Jainarayan Singh
Jainarayan Singh

Singh said he is convinced that his reputation of making rulings not in favour of government has had a lot to do with the way he has been treated. However he says he has no regrets about his service to the judiciary.

Speaking to reporters in the corridors of the High Court yesterday, Singh said he has written to Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, acting Chancellor Carl Singh and the Ministry of Finance to query about the status of his benefits.

He said so far Justice Singh has replied saying that the Ministry of Finance is handling the matter.

Yesterday when this newspaper made contact with the Chancellor to confirm same, his secretary advised that he was not available, but she took the query and said the message would be passed on. Up to press time there was no response.

Singh said he believes he is owed somewhere in the region of $10 million. He served as a judge from August 10, 2000 to September 30, 2008.

He was the judge who granted an order awarding the owner of Toucan Suites apartment building $125 million last October. He ruled that the joint services were hasty in their 11-hour siege of the apartment building eight years ago to flush out the notorious Linden ‘Blackie’ London.

However, the government appealed the ruling on the grounds that the judge erred in law and/or misdirected himself in finding government and the security forces liable for the damage caused to the property, and also in awarding judgment against them.

In court papers filed by the then attorney general Doodnauth Singh, government said the judgment of $125 million was more than the estimated value of the hotel at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.

The appeal also stated that the judgment could not be supported having regard to the evidence and asked for the judgment to be set aside or reversed. That matter is still to be heard.

Singh said he was certain that this decision, among others made against government, had a lot to do with the way he is being treated. He recounted that his decision took into account the fact that the then attorney general recommended at Cabinet three years before his ruling that government pay $90 million; that recommendation was refused.

“I had to take into account that there was Cricket World Cup and his building was close to the stadium. So I took that into account when I made my judgement. They have appealed but I believe that the judgement will be upheld,” he said.

Pointing to his loyalty to the judiciary, Singh told reporters that he was in the prime of his career when he assisted the Government of Guyana by becoming a judge.

When he took up the post, he said, there were six judges on the bench and two retired the following year. He further stated that there were four judges doing the work of 12 and this went on for over three years.

He said that once he has tallied up the exact amount owed to him, he will move to the court if by the he was not paid.

Singh said “political pressure” was placed on him during his tenure, but he never succumbed to it.

Asked to comment on the independence of the judiciary, Singh said, “In my days it certainly was [independent] … it was as far as I am concerned.”

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