ACTING Prisons Commissioner Deopersad Ramoutar has obtained another injunction against the Public Service Commission (PSC) over what he says is an “arbitrarily imposed” selection process and interviews for the post of deputy commissioner.
Justice Frank Seepersad granted the late-night injunction on Thursday, stopping all interviews which were carded to continue at 8 am on Friday.
Some interviews were done on Wednesday. The restraint prevents the PSC from filling the position of deputy commissioner without filling the vacant positions of senior superintendent and assistant commissioner. Seepersad also granted Ramoutar permission to pursue his judicial review claim over the process.
In August 2022 and February, this year, Ramoutar obtained two injunctions over suitability interviews for promotion to the rank of senior superintendent of prisons.
In August, Ramoutar won his lawsuit against the PSC over its move to have a competency-based interview for promotions. This lawsuit was filed before he was appointed acting commissioner in early 2022. In August, Justice Kevin Ramcharan declared the PSC's decision to introduce the competency interview was irrational and unreasonable and held that the PSC could not interview Ramoutar on his knowledge of previous years.
In his latest lawsuit, Ramoutar alleges that the decision taken by the PSC on March 14 to hold a new and “arbitrarily imposed” selection process and interviews amounted to the skipping of ranks to fill the office of deputy commissioner without first filling the positions of senior superintendent and assistant commissioner.
He has also alleged he was ranked first on the merit/seniority list, which the PSC chose to ignore, and, instead, seek to hold a new process and interview.
As the most senior prison officer, Ramoutar claims this new interview process was “artificially contrived” and designed to undermine his position on the merit list.
“The respondent, for no apparent reason, seems determined to want to depart from the very clear, extensive and exhaustive guidelines set out in the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service General Order No 98 of 2014 and also the clear provisions of regulation 172 of the Public Service Commission Regulations.”
In his latest lawsuit, Ramoutar said he was currently acting at a level of four ranks above his substantive position of superintendent and there is no one substantively holding the higher posts of senior superintendent, assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner or commissioner.
His attorneys, Martin George and Sarah Lawrence, also argued that the PSC was in breach of an established practice and policy in the prison service of not skipping ranks by not filling the next-level vacant posts.
George argued that if the positions were filed in their lawful order, then Ramoutar will still retain his number-one position on the merit list, but if allowed, the new process the PSC intends to adopt will see him losing that position.
The matter will come up for hearing before Seepersad on Monday.