Zaheer Ali –
A legal officer with the police who applied for the post of deputy commissioner is suing the Police Service Commission (PSC) for deeming him unqualified for the post because of his qualifications and experience.
On Friday, acting Cpl Zaheer Ali received the High Court’s permission to pursue his legal challenge against the PSC. A timetable for the progress of the lawsuit was finalised by Justice Carol Gobin who is expected to give her decision possibly in November.
Ali has asked for declarations and an order to quash the PSC’s decision. He also wants an injunction restraining the PSC from proceeding with the shortlisting phase of the process of appointment for the deputy commissioner position.
As a temporary compromise, the PSC has given an undertaking to inform Ali of any intended nomination before the matter is determined.
Ali, who joined the police in 2009, was admitted to practise law in TT in 2017 and since then he has been the legal officer with direct responsibility for several specialised units within the Special Branch.
It is this assignment, he says, that has prepared him for the role of deputy commissioner.
When the PSC advertised the position of deputy commissioner in February, Ali applied for the job.
One of the criteria for the post is that the applicant must have a master’s degree in law, criminal justice, criminology, police service management or any other relevant specialisation along with no less than ten years of service.
He uploaded his application and relevant certificates except for his master’s degree in law which, at the time, he was still waiting for from the University of the West Indies. Ali’s lawsuit said he provided his unofficial transcript which shows he completed the LLM.
“Therefore, although no certificate had as yet been awarded, which I believe to be a formality, I completed the required courses for the LLM.”
Ali said, in June, he was told by the PSC he did not have the qualifications and experience for the position of DCP.
“No explanation, reasons or rationale were provided to me. I was never contacted either before or during the screening process by the screening committee to clarify or provide further information on any issue in relation to my qualifications or experience.”
He wrote to the PSC and was eventually told that although his application said he was in possession of an LLM, there was no documentary evidence to support this except for the unofficial UWI transcript which also said his degree had not yet been awarded.
Ali contends that in the PSC’s policy guide, the provision of physical certificates was not a mandatory requirement but rather “documentary evidence” or “supporting” documents in support of the application.
“…Having not yet received my certificate, I provided the best documentary evidence available to me which has not been disputed or impeached as to authenticity or at all.”
“…The intended defendant elected not to contact, confer with or afford me any opportunity to be heard in relation to its finding that I did not possess the requisite qualification.
“My application plainly stated that I was awaiting my certificate and therefore, had I been informed that same was a mandatory requirement, I could have taken steps to expedite the issuance of same.”
Other than challenging the decision on his qualifications, Ali has also taken issue with the PSC’s claim he did not have the requisite experience.
“…I would have managed a cadre of specialised staff including front line officers of special units by planning operations, directing activities and co-ordinating personnel matters in relation to same. I would also have inspected and reviewed records, activities and operations within a specified area of responsibility.“
Ali says his current duties are consistent with the job description for the ranks of sergeant to the superintendent and the numerous delays in the promotion process in the police service, led to him not progressing through the ranks sooner.
His lawsuit contends that the PSC’s decision is unreasonable, irrational, improper and in breach of the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.
He contends the PSC misdirected itself and failed to conduct a sufficient inquiry into his qualifications and policing background.
Ali is represented by attorneys Kiel Taklalsingh, Leon Kalicharan and Kristy Mohan.