An agreement was reached today between the Barbados Water Authority and popular businesswoman Ms Ram Mirchandani.
This comes after an injunction was filed in March, by Ram’s legal team, in response to the BWA turning off the water supply to her company Knitwear Limited as a result of non-payment.
Justice Michelle Weekes, who heard the injunction, made a number of orders including payment of half the total arrears, inspection by the BWA and full payment of the monthly water bill going forward
That judgment was appealed and on April 16, the Court of Appeal, led by Chief Justice Patterson Cheltenham and Justices of Appeal Margaret Reifer and Francis Belle, ordered that the matter be adjourned until today to permit the parties to explore the possibility of settlement given the terms of Weekes’ order.
Today, the Chief Justice commended attorneys Ernest Jackman, who appeared for the appellant Knitwear Limited, and Gregory Nicholls with Ona Harewood who represented the BWA, for their maturity in bringing it to fruition.
Nicholls said a draft order of the conditions was agreed on and believed to be “palatable and within the remit of the BWA” and which would allow for reconnection of the water to the premises.
By consent order, the conditions attached to order of the Honourable Madam Justice Michelle Weekes on August 6, 2019 were varied and substituted.
One order states “There shall be an inspection by the respondent of all pipes, cisterns, basins, taps fittings, fixtures and tanks on the premises of the appellant within seven to ten days of the reconnection of the water service in order to ensure that they are no leakages, wastage or misuse of the water supply by the respondent.”
In addition, on reconnection of the service, Ms Ram is required to pay the full amount charged and levied by the BWA in each monthly bill inclusive of the garbage and sewage contribution levy within 28 days of said billing.
The total sum Ram owes to the BWA remains unclear, but reports suggest the arrears could be over quarter-million dollars.
The court denied Jackman’s request for costs.
The Chief Justice noted that no order for costs was made by Justice Weekes and he agreed that this was consistent on an injunction.
“It seems to me each party should bear their own costs,” he said.
Nicholls in response said “All the conditions were submitted by the BWA as conditions for reconnection of the water service. If the court was minded to grant this injunction, because the water authority opposed that application, this was submitted in the alternative.”
“The water authority should not have to pay costs in circumstances where it feels that it has been exercising its powers under the regulations and duly doing so and disconnecting the water service because of a non-payment,” he added.
He said the efforts of BWA to reconnect the supply were clear. “If it were that the parties had come to an agreement prior and the BWA was acting unreasonably, I would understand that. But, the BWA should not be penalized to pay the appellant’s costs…in a matter where the parties have resolved in a fairly straight forward and amicable way.”
Jackman argued that his client was forced to come to the appeal stage and certain costs had accrued.
Justice Belle responded to Jackman’s comments stating that even though the matter had to reach the appeal stage “at the end of the day by taking this step you have put that consideration aside and decided to see how you can try to agree on certain things on which the parties are equally satisfied”.