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Derek Achong

A driver from Arouca, whose driving permit was suspended for six months after he received three tickets in the space of five months last year, has lost his challenge against Licensing Authority and the Transport Commissioner.

Delivering a judgment during a virtual hearing yesterday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad dismissed the claim brought by Zachary De Silva.

In the lawsuit, Seepersad was asked to decide whether he had the jurisdiction to hear the case as such traffic offences are traditionally dealt with by magistrates and the Court of Appeal.

Seepersad noted that an amendment to the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, which introduced the country’s demerit point system in 2017, sought to reduce the backlog of traffic cases before magistrates by giving the authority and the commissioner the power to suspend the permits of drivers who accumulate specified points.

“Why would Parliament now place an additional burden on the High Court while at the same time streamlining the procedure in order to reduce the number of traffic matters going before the Summary Court?… Its involvement with traffic-related matters was always confined to trials of indictable traffic offences,” Seepersad said.

While Seepersad praised the demerit point system as a valuable tool in helping to reduce road carnage, he suggested that Parliament should have clearly defined the appellate procedure to avoid the need for the case before him.

Based on his decision in the case, Seepersad lifted a stay on the suspension which was granted to allow De Silva to drive while the case was being determined.

Although De Silva lost the case, Seepersad did not order him to cover the State’s legal costs as he said that he had raised an important legal issue that required clarification.

Despite his loss in the case, De Silva is not without recourse as he can still challenge the suspension before the Court of Appeal as suggested by Seepersad.

De Silva received his first ticket after he was caught using his cellphone while driving in May.

Two months later, he received another ticket for breaching a traffic sign.

The last ticket was issued in September for having a front passenger without a seat belt.

In his court filings, De Silva said he believed that he would not receive demerit points if he paid the fines.

The authority gave De Silva an opportunity to present a mitigation plea and then still decided to suspend his permit for having between 10 and 14 points within a three- year period.

Under the legislation, suspensions vary between six months and two years depending on the number of points accumulated.

In the lawsuit, De Silva was claiming that the authority’s move to carry out the provisions of the legislation was harsh, oppressive, and disproportionate in the circumstances.

He was represented by Christophe Rodriguez, Devvon Williams and Kimaada Ottley while Ravi Nanga, Rachel Theophilus and Savitri Maharaj also represented the authority and commissioner.