Thursday, June 16, 2011

Full court dimisses Kissoon, Adam Harris and KN appeal against injunction granted in Jagdeo libel suit

THE Full Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature yesterday dismissed the appeal by Freddy Kissoon, Adam Harris & National Media and Publishing Company and ruled that the injunction granted by the Chief Justice restraining them from repeating a libel against President Jagdeo must continue.
The defendants who were sued for libel by the President had their writ put down for a later date but the Chief Justice had made interlocutory an injunction which was granted ex-parte on July 13, 2010.

The appellants were restrained from publishing words or similar words of or concerning the Respondent/Plaintiff, contained in an article published in the Kaieteur News newspapers on July 28th 2010, under the caption, “King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference”.
In their appeal, the appellants claimed that since they pleaded justification, privilege and fair comment as defences to the alleged libel, there was no need for the injunction to continue.
The Full Court, constituted by Justice William Ramlal and Justice Winston Patterson, found that the lawyers, Khemraj Ramjattan, Neil Parsram and Christopher Ram, for the defendants, had not proved their case. The appeal was dismissed with agreed costs in the sum of $40, 000.
The Full Court upheld submissions made by Mr. Anil Nandlall and rejected submissions made by Mr. Ramjattan.

Nandlall submitted that the constitutional right to free speech is subject to the law of defamation and the constitutional right to free speech is not a licence to libel and slander.
According to him, in addition, article 146:3 of the Constitution specifically outlaws hate and racially motivated speeches and publications which are designed to cause ill will amongst the people of Guyana.
Nandlall argued that the publication of Freddy Kissoon did precisely this.
Mr. Nandlall further stated that it is beyond question that the right of free speech is protected and guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 146 of the Constitution. However, this constitutional right is subject to certain important limitations. One which is applicable to the case at bar is the law which makes provision for the protection of the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons.

Counsel’s argument that once justification is pleaded, an interlocutory injunction ought never to be granted, is clearly wrong. The court’s function is not as robotic as counsel makes it out to be.
The court must be satisfied that such a defence would not succeed. The mere plea of justification is simply not enough. If the mere plea was sufficient, the obtaining of an injunction would have become impossible because every defendant will make such a plea irrespective of whether it would succeed or not and the court’s jurisdiction to grant an injunction to prevent a clear libel would become absolutely impotent. This proposition is simply and manifestly absurd.

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