Tue | Oct 24, 2017

Letter of the Day | Ministerial decisions can be challenged

Published:Wednesday | July 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Peter Espeut's article in The Gleaner on July 14, 2017, titled 'Jamaica is a monarchy' stated that the decision of the minister with responsibility for the environment, on appeal, is unchallengeable in a court of law and not subject to judicial review. I wish to put forward my understanding of the law.

The National Resources Conservation Authority Act provides that an "aggrieved person may appeal to the minister against the decision of the Authority in relation to a permit or licence" and further, that "the minister's decision shall be final". My understanding is that there is no further recourse for the applicant/aggrieved person.

This does not take away the right of any person with sufficient interest in a matter to initiate proceedings in the court to make such orders as provided in the law regarding the "... amendment or approval of any plan, any decision of a minister or government department or any action on the part of a minister or government department" (Part 56.1 of the Civil Procedure Rules, 2002).

In fact, there have been numerous cases that have challenged the decision of government authorities, including that of a minister's decision on appeal. In particular, the local case of James Chisholm, et al v Minister of Environment and Housing, et al [Supreme Court Civil Appeal: No. 123 of 2005] looked at the appeal process to the minister by an aggrieved individual pursuant to section 15 of the Local Improvements Act.

The court relied on a wealth of English authorities to support their decision that the ability to seek judicial review cannot be removed by statute. Therefore, the appeal process does not prevent a court from enquiring into the validity of a minister's decision.

Therefore, I do not support Mr Espeut's view that the minister's word is the "law" and, as such, the colonial monarchy continues to pervade our society. While citizens may not choose to take the legal route because of the expense and delays of court action, it is still an avenue which is open to us.

TERRI-ANN GUYAH

Legal Officer

Jamaica Environment Trust