Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
Submissions from old case shine new light on JPS lawsuit
Receiving evidence of a near 100-year-old ruling declaring monopolies illegal under legislation identical to Jamaica's Electric Lighting Act, Supreme Court judge Bryan Sykes has summoned attorneys representing the parties in a class-action suit against the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to return to court today to make further submissions.
The lawyers were summoned after attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman, who is representing the claimants, submitted to the judge on Tuesday a 1913 case from the House of Lords in England which deals with exclusive licence under the Electric Lighting Act.
Sykes had reserved his decision last week Tuesday after hearing legal arguments in the matter.
Wildman had argued that the then energy minister did not have the power to grant the licence.
Commenting on the case which he submitted, Wildman told The Gleaner yesterday that the Electric Lighting Act was enacted in England in 1882 and Jamaica inherited the act in 1890.
"It is the identical legislation and by 1913, the House of Lords had to interpret the legislation and they came down clearly on the side that the legislation does not permit a monopoly and were emphatic that a monopoly status cannot be accommodated under the legislation," Wildman said.
Wildman further explained that the legislation was designed to encourage competition and the judges said in the 1913 case that it was for the benefit of the consumers and public at large to have competition.
Last week, Wildman argued in the Supreme Court that the then minister of energy breached the Electric Lighting Act when he granted the exclusive licence to JPS in 2001. Wildman has described the licence as illegal.
Wildman submitted that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), in recommending the licence, breached its own act, which states that there must be competition.
The claimants, Dennis Meadows, Betty Ann Blaine and Cyrus Rousseau, 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 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.
The respondents, the attorney general, the OUR and the JPS and their lawyers, have asked the court not to grant the declaration.
Queen's Counsel Michael Hylton, who represents the JPS, has argued that Section 3 of the Electric Lighting Act (which is the section that empowers the minister to grant the licence) "does not stipulate a requirement that there must be more than one "undertaker". In fact, it does not use the plural at all.