Over 300 bar owners and operators who sued the State over a recent move to reduce the opening hours for their businesses under ongoing COVID-19 public health regulations, have partially withdrawn their claim.
During a virtual hearing of the case brought by members of the Barkeepers and Operators Association of T&T (BOATT), yesterday morning, their lawyer Anand Ramlogan, SC, indicated that his clients would no longer be pursuing the judicial review aspect of the case as the Government’s move to allow bars to close at 10 pm, announced on Saturday and taking effect yesterday, rendered it academic.
However, Ramlogan indicated that they would still be continuing with the constitutional aspects of the case, in which they are alleging that their constitutional rights were breached and are seeking compensation.
During the hearing, Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, who is leading the State’s legal team, pointed out that Ramlogan has another case before Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh, in which he (Ramlogan) is challenging the current public health regulations, albeit on different grounds.
Armour called on Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams to have discussions with Boodoosingh on whether the cases should be joined or hear separately.
Ramlogan did not challenge Armour’s suggestion and the case was adjourned to Thursday.
In the court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, the association and its members claimed that the change announced soon after such establishments were allowed to reopen, late last month, was inherently discriminatory.
The association contended that the move gave businesses that operate as restaurants/bars an unfair advantage as they are allowed to open till 10 pm as opposed to 8 pm for businesses that are solely considered bars.
The group is claiming that the regulations are unconstitutional as they affect their members’ constitutional rights including the right to the enjoyment of property. It also suggested that such an action could have been lawful if it withstood Parliamentary scrutiny.
“It would be perverse, absurd and illogical if regulations that are inconsistent with the fundamental rights in sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution, may be enacted without the need to adhere to the requirements of section 12 (no need to involve Parliament at all), whilst an Act of Parliament which expressly declares that it is inconsistent with section 4 and 5, is liable to invalidation,” they said.
Through the lawsuit, the association is seeking a declaration that the policy is null, void, and of no legal effect. It is also seeking financial compensation.
The association is also being represented by Renuka Rambhajan, Douglas Bayley, and Ganesh Saroop.
The State’s legal team includes Rishi Dass, Savi Ramhit, Dianne Katwaroo, Raphael Adjodhia, and Tenille Ramkissoon.