Case details

Central Broadcasting Services Ltd and another (Appellants) v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago)

Case ID: JCPC 2014/0100

Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago

Case summary


The assessment of compensatory damages for the State’s failure to award the First Appellant a radio licence (previously held to be unconstitutional by an earlier judgment of the JCPC in Central Broadcasting Services Ltd and another v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2006] UKPC 35). In particular whether the judge erred requiring the Court of Appeal to make a fresh assessment in (a) his assessment of the compensatory award and (b) his restriction of costs to one advocate and one instructing attorney.


On 1 December 1999 the Second Appellant (a Hindu religious and cultural organisation) applied to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Trinidad and Tobago for a licence for a Hindu-orientated radio station. Central Broadcasting Services Limited (‘CBSL’) was incorporated on 3 August 2000. CBSL submitted its application on 1 September 2000 with further materials submitted on 18 September 2000. The Second Appellant requested an update on its application and a response was received on 5 March 2001 from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible that the matter was being investigated and that they would communicate with them shortly. The Appellants heard nothing further until August 2002 when they became aware that a licence had been granted to a more recent applicant, Citadel Ltd.

The Appellants brought a constitutional motion on 16 August 2002 claiming violations of their rights under section 4 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago to equality of treatment, freedom of conscience and religious belief and freedom of thought and expression, and seeking an order directing the grant of radio licences to them. The motion was supported by various affidavits. The High Court concluded that there had been unequal treatment under sections 4(b) (equality before the law) and (d) (equality of treatment) of the Constitution. Best J considered it unnecessary to determine the remaining claims and also declined to make an order that a licence be granted to the Appellants. The question of constitutional redress was referred to a Master of the High Court. The Appellants’ appeal seeking a direction for the grant of a licence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. However, the Court of Appeal clarified that the matter should be placed before Cabinet for its consideration within 28 days.

The JCPC allowed the Appellant’s appeal: [2006] UKPC 35. It concluded on the Appellants’ application had been refused in 2004, evidenced by a letter of 15 May 2004 written by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry to the Appellants. However, this had not been made clear to the Appellants or the Court of Appeal prior to this letter. It held that there was no basis to find a breach of section 4(b) of the Constitution but that the Appellants’ rights to equality of treatment under section 4(d) had been infringed as had their right to freedom of expression under section 4(i) by the arbitrary and capricious refusal of a licence. It made a mandatory order that the Attorney General should do all that was necessary to procure an appropriate licence for CBSL on an appropriate frequency. A licence was granted to CBSL on 22 September 2006. CBSL began broadcasting on 19 January 2007.

Proceedings for the assessment of damages followed. Boodoosingh J gave judgment on 22 September 2009 awarding the Appellants USD 952,890 as compensatory damages and USD 500,000 for vindicatory damages and awarding costs to the Appellants for one advocate and one instructing attorney to be taxed if not agreed. The Appellants challenged the judge’s award for proceeding on the wrong basis regarding CBSL’s profits and being inordinately low. The Respondent cross-appealed the award of damages for being inordinately high. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal. Conditional leave to the Appellants to appeal was granted by the Court of Appeal on 7 October 2013. Leave was made final by order dated 10 February 2014.



Central Broadcasting Services Ltd and another


The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago



Lord Kerr, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hodge, Lady Black

05 Mar 2018

Hearing finish date

05 Mar 2018