Maharaj Vs. Attorney-general of trinidad and tobago (1978) 2 all er 670 (p.c.)

Maharaj Vs. Attorney-general of trinidad and tobago (1978) 2 all er 670 (p.c.)

(1978) 2 all er 670 (p.c.)

FACTS
The appellant who was a barrister was committed to seven days imprisonment by a Judge of the High Court, which committal was set aside by the Privy Council in appeal, on the ground that particulars of the specific nature of the contempt were not told to the appellant and the judge had thereby failed to observe a fundamental rule of natural justice. The appellant in the meantime applied for redress under section 6 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago on the ground that he was deprived of his liberty without due process of law.

This application was dismissed by the High Court, but appellant again came up in appeal, to the Privy Council.

JUDGMENT

The Privy Council held that section 6 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago impliedly allowed the High Court to award compensation as that may be the only practicable form of redress in some cases.

Any person alleging contravention of this right and other human rights and freedoms recognized under section 1 and 2 can apply under section 6 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago for redress to the High Court which is empowered to issue appropriate orders, writs and directions for enforcement or securing the protection of provisions of the aforesaid sections.

The Privy Council also held that as the appellant’s committal was in violation of the rules of natural justice, he was deprived of his liberty without due process of law in contravention of section 1 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and was entitled to claim compensation from the State under section 6 thereof. In meeting an argument that a judge cannot be made personally liable for anything done or purporting to be done in the exercise of purported exercise of his judicial functions, Lord Diplock speaking for the majority observed:

“The claim for redress under section 6 (1) for what has been done by a judge is a claim against the State for what has been done in the exercise of judicial power of the State. This is not vicarious liability: it is liability of the State itself. It is not a liability in tort at all: it is a liability in public law of the State, not of the judge, which has been created by section 6 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.”

As to the measure of compensation, Lord Diplock said: “The claim is not a claim in private law for damages for the tort of false imprisonment under which the damages recoverable are at large and would include damages for loss of reputation. It is a claim in public law for compensation for deprivation of liberty alone. Such compensation would include any loss of earnings consequent on the imprisonment and recompense for the inconvenience and distress suffered by the appellant during his incarceration.”

– Mary Joseph

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