Court dismisses Ali case

THE High Court has dismissed a defamation action filed by a Suva market vendor against Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali after she complained about him to the Suva City Council.

Anukar Dayal claimed Ms Ali “falsely and maliciously” defamed him when she complained to the council in June 2014 that he had bullied and harassed a fellow market vendor, Jotishna Prasad.

Mr Dayal had sued Ms Prasad in the same case, but the court struck out the claim in 2017.

During the hearing of the action, Mr Dayal said the contents of Ms Ali’s letter were untrue and that Ms Ali’s complaints had affected his relationship with the council. He told the court that he had been called by the legal section of the Attorney-General’s office and told to file a defamation action.

In her statement of defence, Ms Ali defended the FWCC’s right to make the complaint, saying that its role was to prevent violence of all forms against women.

Ms Ali said she was also under a “moral duty” to help Ms Prasad.

Ms Prasad gave evidence that she had previously complained about Mr Dayal to the SCC, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Department of Labour and the Central Police Station and received no responses from any of them.

She had then approached FWCC for counselling and legal assistance.

Ms Ali said as a result of this she wrote to the council on June 19, 2014, which she did in good faith and without malice, to reiterate Ms Prasad’s complaints and have them investigated and properly dealt with.

In his judgment, Justice Brito-Mutunayagam said the plaintiff, Mr Dayal, had not established that Ms Ali had acted with malice.

He said as co-ordinator of the FWCC, Ms Ali had a moral duty to request SCC to investigate Ms Prasad’s complaints and inform the relevant authorities, who had a corresponding interest and duty to hear the complaints.

Dismissing Mr Dayal’s case, he ordered Mr Dayal to pay Ms Ali $5000 in legal costs.

Mr Dayal was represented by Suva lawyer Shelvin Singh while Ms Ali was represented by Munro Leys senior associate Ronal Singh.