The State has failed in its attempt to block a lawsuit from a man, who was arrested for failing to pay a court-ordered fine due to an administrative error.
Delivering a six page decision yesterday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad dismissed an application by State attorneys to have Ralph Rajaram’s case dismissed because of a four year delay in filing it.
In his judgment, Seepersad ruled that the delay was not an abuse of process as it was not inordinate based on the fact that it (the State) failed to reply to Rajaram’s initial legal correspondence on two occasions.
“Of course the institution of the instant proceedings should have occurred within months of the State’s unacceptable and deafening inaction and silence but even after the length of time which has elapsed since the alleged breach, no ascertainable prejudice to the State can be identified,” Seepersad said.
Seepersad also suggested that there was a significant public interest element in the case, which warranted its determination.
“If a constitutional breach is established at the trial, then the public interest would best be served by the injection of the required fiscal resources and the implementation of digitized processes so as to ensure that paid fines are promptly and accurately recorded thereby mitigating against the likelihood that another citizen who has paid his fine is not subsequently arrested and detained by means of a non- payment warrant,” Seepersad said.
According to the evidence in the case presented thus far, Rajaram was arrested by police at his home in December 2016 for failing to pay a $3,500 for cocaine possession.
Although Rajaram allegedly told police that he paid the fine and attempted to produce a receipt, he was arrested and detained until his relatives paid the sum the following day.
After his release, Rajaram raised the issue with Judiciary staff and was given a refund.
Through the lawsuit, Rajaram is seeking declarations that the treatment he received breached his constitutional rights.
He is also seeking compensation for the alleged breaches as well as for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.
Rajaram’s substantive lawsuit is expected to be heard by Seepersad later this year.
Rajaram is being represented by Dane Halls while Tiffany Kissoon and Sasha Sukhram are representing the Office of the Attorney General