Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
The class action suit over the exclusive licence granted to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) began yesterday with attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman arguing that the then energy minister did not have the power to grant the licence.
Wildman described the exclusive licence as illegal and said the minister breached the Electric Lighting Act when he granted the licence to JPS in 2001.
Justice Bryan Sykes is hearing the matter in the Supreme Court.
Wildman is representing claimants Dennis Meadows, Betty Ann Blaine and Cyrus Rousseau who are seeking a declaration that the 20-year-old exclusive licence granted on March 30, 2001, and amended in 2007 on the recommendation of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is illegal, null and void and of no effect.
The claimants want the court to declare that the JPS is currently operating without a licence. They are also seeking a declaration that the licence constitutes an unlawful fetter on the discretion of the minister and subsequent ministers in the granting of a licence to transmit electricity under the act.
Wildman submitted that the OUR, in recommending the licence, breached its own act which states that there must be competition.
In response to the submissions, government lawyer Althea Jarrett, who is representing the attorney general, asked the court not to grant the declarations. She argued that the OUR and the minister committed no breach when the licence was granted as the minister had the authority under the act to grant the exclusive licence.
Questioned by Sykes as to whether the act allowed for persons to provide their own electricity, Jarrett said it did.
However, she said an individual can provide and transmit electricity to himself but could not supply electricity to his neighbour because that would be in breach of the JPS' licence.
She said a complex that was under a strata corporation could provide its own electricity and supply it to persons within the complex because that would be regarded as a person.
The suit was filed last year by a group of disgruntled JPS customers who have been calling for the Government to end the JPS monopoly on electricity distribution because of increasing electricity bills and complaints of poor customer service.
The other defendants are the JPS and the OUR.