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High Court Judge James Aboud

A High Court Judge has refused to defer his preliminary rulings in a controversial lawsuit over contracts awarded in the run-up to the 2015 General Election.

Responding to a letter sent by lawyers representing four contractors, in which they requested an adjournment until after the Monday’s 2020 General Elections, Justice James Aboud refused the lawyers on three grounds.

In the email response, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Aboud’s judicial support officer Sharma Rampadarath informed the parties that the decision is long-outstanding, with Aboud working on it since March in addition to his normal duties.

Rampadarath also stated that Aboud had set August 6 for the delivery of his judgement long before the election date was set and announced.

“The Honourable Judge is unable to adjust his work schedule in August, as he has many other demanding and equally important judicial responsibilities and obligations on every day in August,” Rampadarath wrote.

In a letter sent to Aboud last Friday, lawyers representing Fides, TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth), Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco) cited prejudicial comments during the election season as justification for Aboud postponing his decision.

In the applications Aboud is scheduled to rule on, the contractors are calling on the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD), which they sued for their payments, to provide additional particulars on its (EMBD) counter-claim against them, another contractor, three of its former officials and former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal. They are also calling for the counter-claim to be struck out if the particulars are not provided.

In the letter, attorney Karina Singh claimed that both the People’s National Movement (PNM) and United National Congress (UNC) had made inflammatory public statements on the alleged strength or weakness of the case.

Calling for the postponement, Singh said: “This is because the delivery of the judgement prior to the election date, whichever side succeeds in the applications before the court, is likely to bring the administration of justice into political controversy.”

Despite the suggestion, Singh suggested that her team has total confidence in the independence and impartiality of the court.

The lawsuit centres around 10 contracts for the rehabilitation of roads in Caroni which were granted to five contractors in September 2015. Namalco, the fifth contractor, filed separate but similar applications, which are to be determined by Aboud.

Moonilal, former EMBD CEO Gary Parmassar, former divisional managers Madhoo Balroop and Andrew Walker are listed as parties to the claim along with the contractors and are accused of conspiring together for them to be awarded the contracts. They have denied any wrongdoing.

The companies are also being represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, Jagdeo Singh and Kiel Taklalsingh. EMBD is being represented by David Phillips, QC and Jason Mootoo.