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Caricel’s argument weak, says Court of Appeal

Published:Wednesday | May 1, 2019 | 12:16 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

With embattled telecommunications provider Symbiote Investments Limited, which operates as Caricel, pledging to take its grouse to the United Kingdom-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Jamaican Court of Appeal has unequivocally declared that the company’s appeal will not succeed.

“During the course of submissions, the court contemplated its power to set aside its original grant of permission to appeal. It has been decided, based on the analysis of the prospective grounds of appeal, that there is no proper basis on which to allow these grounds to be advanced on an appeal. The order granting permission to appeal must, therefore, be completely set aside,” the written judgment posted on the Court of Appeal website read.

The court had previously granted to Caricel permission to appeal on December 17, 2018, undoing a ruling by a High Court judge, who refused the company’s request for judicial review.

The panel of Appeal Court judges comprising Justices Patrick Brooks, Marva McDonald Bishop, and Paulette Williams, in an oral ruling on March 29, refused the application for stay of execution, thereby completing the revocation process for the licences held by the telecommunications company.

The court found that Caricel’s attorney Lord Anthony Gifford’s argument that the minister’s decision was quasi-judicial and amenable to stay did not have much force.

“A mere stay, by this court, of the minister’s order would leave Symbiote in the situation where it would be operating in breach of the act. Only a repeal of the order would create a situation which would properly allow Symbiote to continue to operate,” the court asserted.

The judgment added that “this court would only issue an order repealing the minister’s revocation if it felt a high degree of assurance that Symbiote would succeed on appeal”.

Then Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley had, in 2017, told Parliament that Symbiote had not complied with all the conditions that were attached to its domestic mobile spectrum licence, with its failure to address the matter of outstanding fees among the issues raised.

Based on recommendations by the Office of Utilities Regulation, Wheatley initiated the process to revoke the telecommunications licences granted to the company.

Caricel was granted licences to operate in Jamaica by the Government in 2016 despite a recommendation from the contractor general not to do so.