Former Congress of the People political leader Prakash Ramadhar has been granted leave to petition the Privy Council to appeal a majority ruling of the appellate court which, in July, ordered that he compensate his brother and two former COP members for slandering their names.
Justices of Appeal Allan Mendonca, Judith Jones and Peter Rajkumar yesterday granted leave to Ramadhar on the condition that the money he has already paid to the court in compliance with the judgment remain in court until the hearing and determination of the appeal at the Privy Council.
A stay of the order of compensation was also granted.
Ramadhar, former COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and founding member Iqbal Hydal were in December 2015 ordered to pay specific sums to Kishore Ramadhar (Prakash’s brother), Rudy Hanamji and Satu Ann Ramcharan.
In his 2015 ruling, Justice Vasheist Kokaram held that the slanderous statements went beyond the boundaries of responsible speech and based on facts, which were simply not true.
“It was a collateral and unrelated attack on the claimants with the intention of bolstering his position as leader of the party and the direction of the party at the expense of the claimants reputation,” Kokaram had ruled.
In July this year, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice of Appeal Gregory Smith, in their majority ruling, dismissed all four grounds of appeal argued by Ramadhar and ordered him to pay two-thirds costs of the appeal which had to be defended by the three. Justice Prakash Moosai dissented. Only Ramadhar appealed the judge’s ruling. Ramadhar had been ordered to pay his brother $90,000; the same amount to Hanamji and $75,000 to Ramcharan.
The defamation claim arose out of statements allegedly made by the COP leader and the party’s chairman at a COP National Council meeting on November 10, 2013 regarding a letter dated October 1, 2013, in which the three were accused of sending to the then Opposition PNM information about the COP’s membership.
Speaking after the court’s ruling, Ramadhar said he was “pleased to allow the due process of our judicial system to be followed all the way to the Privy Council, as this claim had far reaching consequences for our fundamental right to freedom of expression, vis a vis political speech, which was intrinsic to any functioning democracy.”
Ramadhar expressed confidence the Privy Council would vindicate his name.
He was represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, and Michael Rooplal while Mervyn Campbell and Yuri Saunders represented Kishore Ramadhar, Hanamji and Ramcharan.