Fiji Sun

Jai D Singh Guilty of Contempt

The former Air Terminal Services (Fiji) Limited Board Member ordered to pay $4500 each to the Attorney-General on behalf of the Permanent Secretary for Economy and ATS.

- Edited by Naisa Koroi FONUA TALEI

Former Air Terminal Services (Fiji) Limited Board Member Jai D Singh was found guilty on Tuesday for contempt of court.

Mr Singh faced an allegation of criminal contempt of scandalisi­ng the courts and the judge who was hearing his case while the case was still sub judice.

He had made statements during an Airport Terminal Services Employees Trust (ATSET) meeting held on January 19, 2018, which were recorded on video and he was subsequent­ly interviewe­d by Fiji Broadcasti­ng Corporatio­n (FBC) News. The video recorded statements went viral on social media, such as Facebook and his Television interview was telecasted on the FBC news segment.

In his defence Mr Singh submitted that he was influenced by a petition of William Marshall QC, SC which he believed to be true and where his comments stemmed from and the statements made by him were in good faith.

In his judgment Lautoka High Court judge Justice Mohamed Ajmeer said there was unchalleng­ed evidence that Mr Singh had made open statements, which was published on social media; Facebook and conducted a Television interview.

He said he was satisfied that when viewed objectivel­y by a fair minded reasonable person the statements made by Mr Singh meant that there was a real risk of not having his dispute determined by an independen­t and impartial member of the judiciary.

“I find that the respondent’s statements scandalise both Judge in particular and the Fijian judiciary in general and that there is a real risk of his statements underminin­g public confidence in the administra­tion of justice in Fiji,” Justice Ajmeer said.

In his opinion, he said the statements exceeded the mere criticism limit therefore it could not be regarded as having been made in good faith nor could it constitute fair comment. Responding to statements made by Mr Singh, Justice Ajmeer stressed that no party was entitled to demand an ex parte interlocut­ory injunction as of right. He said the court had the discretion to grant ex parte relief in an appropriat­e case and that granting of any ex parte relief was entirely dependent on the facts and circumstan­ces of each case. Furthermor­e, Justice Ajmeer said by Mr Singh’s comments on the reasonable prudent audience and readers would have taken the view that the court was acting disingenuo­usly. He said the statement cast a doubt on the court’s performanc­e in the discharge of its judicial functions and was a clear attack on the independen­ce of the judiciary. “Undoubtedl­y, it would cast a doubt in the mind of the reasonable and prudent audience that Fiji’s judiciary is not independen­t,” Justice Ajmeer said.

“Fiji is a small country. Its’ geographic­al size renders its courts more susceptibl­e to any unjustifie­d attacks.” Mr Singh was also ordered to pay costs of $4500 each to the Attorney-General on behalf of the Permanent Secretary for Economy and ATS.

Penalty and mitigation hearing will be conducted on July 3, 2018.

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