THE Court of Appeal in Port of Spain has dismissed an appeal filed by former political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar who had challenged a ruling handed down against him by a High Court judge in 2015.
With the dismissal of the appeal, now Ramadhar will have to comply with the order of the High Court and pay compensation to his brother, Kishore Ramadhar, Rudolph Hanamji and Satu Ann Ramcharan for slandering their names.
The appeal stemmed from the ruling which was handed by Justice Vasheist Kokaram, who found that Ramadhar, former COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and founding member Iqbal Hydal had made slanderous statements against the claimants and, as such, ordered that they pay damages for defamation of character.
“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,” the judge had said in his ruling.
Even though all three were ordered to pay compensation, only Ramadhar challenged the court's ruling by way of appeal.
But this challenge was also shot down by a three-judge panel at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain on Friday.
The panel, comprising Chief Justice Ivor Archie, and Justices of Appeal Gregory Smith and Prakash Moosai, found in a two-to-three majority ruling that Justice Kokaram was “patently aware of the law” and properly applied the law to the facts and circumstances that were before him during the trial.
Both Archie and Smith found that the appeal should be dismissed while Moosai found that it should have been allowed.
“The exercise was fairly performed and in the present case I find no reason to second guess the impressions he (Justice Kokaram) formed and the findings he made on the contested facts before him,” Smith said in delivering the ruling.
Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence-Maharaj, who led the case for Ramadhar, argued at the appeal that the words spoken by his client were neither referable to or defamatory of the three; were covered by qualified privilege; were a proper reply to an attack and were fair comment on a matter of public interest.
Ramadhar was ordered to pay $90,000 to his brother and Hanamji and an additional $75,000 to Ramcharan.
The defamation lawsuit was filed by the claimants after Ramadhar, Seepersad-Bachan and Hydal allegedly made defamatory statements during one of the party's National Council meeting in November 2013, in which they allegedly accused the claimants of providing information to the then-Opposition People's National Movement (PNM) about the COP's membership.
After the allegations arose against them, the claimants were suspended from the COP's national executive council.
Appearing alongside Maharaj for Ramadhar were attorneys Larry Lalla and Michael Rooplal. Kishore Ramadhar and Ramcharan were represented by attorney Fred Gilkes while attorney Mervyn Campbell appeared for Hanamji.