| Fadley Faisal |
THE Court of Appeal struck out an application by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Brunei Darussalam and 24 of its members on a libel suit filed against them by two Indian nationals in Brunei.
The Indian Chamber of Commerce Brunei Darussalam, Mohamed Zackiriah Nazeer Ahmad, Jamnu Punjabi, Abd Malick Mohamed Batcha, Abdul Rahim Kamaldeen, Mohamed Zubair Hamim Basheer, Mohamed Abdulla Inamulla @ Yunus, Venugopal Jayakumar, Abdul Packir Maideen, Punjabi Vishnu Tarachand, Noorsa Ahmad Sultan Noor Mohamed, Dawoo Batcha Mohd Jafarullah, Shaikh Mohamed Saburdeen, Abdul Sheik Dawood Munaff, Muthiah Chettiarmani, Vadakoot Sankunni Azhutchan, Ramesh Chandaran, Poondiyar Shaik Peer Mohamed, Sheik Dawood, Asiqurahman bin Hj Abd Haleem, Haji Badurudeen S/O Tn Mohamed Ismail, Ubayathullah Hamim Basheer, Hidhayatulla bin Tajudden, Mohamed Hussain Mohamed Ali, Sulaimanayub Khan, Hj Mohamed Ali and Hj Mohamed Asraf @ Abdul Kader Asraf Ali, represented by Siva Sankaran of Messrs Sankaran Halim, were sued by Ramesh Jiwatram Bhawnani and Abdul Hamid bin Abas, who were represented by Pg Izad Ryan PLKD Pg Hj Bahrin of Messrs Pg Izad & Lee, of libel.
The appellants sought to strike out the proceedings against them saying that it was scandalous, frivolous and vexatious, that it was otherwise an abuse of the court’s process and that the respondents had failed to generally endorse the Writ.
The appellants argued that the Writ was not specifically endorsed as to the relief and remedy sought by the respondents, that the respondents were unable to prove or quantify damages on the face of the pleadings, that the action could not be maintained as the court was not competent to entertain a suit on communications relating to matters of State pursuant to Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (Article 27) and that the respondents had failed to show and prove publication of the letters.
President of the Court of Appeal Justice Barry Mortimer, sitting with Justices Leonard and Burrell, said in the judgement that the appellants’ case seems to depend on an assumption that the respondents sought to put in evidence the letters sent to the Indian High Commissioner and that they must have been obtained by improper means from the archive of the Indian High Commission.
“There is nothing to support that assumption”, decided Justice Mortimer.
“The respondents say that the copy letters were received from an anonymous source and that more copies were given to a number of people other than the appellants inside and outside the High Commission,” the Justices of the Court of Appeal said, adding that the contents of the letter are now in the public domain and that there is no objection by the High Commission to its use in the proceedings.
“If the High Commission did give out copies that would not constitute publication by the appellants, but would be relevant to the issue of admissibility,” said the Justices.
The Court of Appeal stated in the judgement that the Convention does not assist the appellants who have failed at this stage to show the copies delivered anonymously to the respondents was taken from the original in the archive and they have failed to show that the respondents were complicit in the act of making the copies.
“On the evidence as it stands at present we find that the letters are admissible. The appeal is dismissed,” Justice Barry Mortimer concluded.
The suit against the ICC and its members was that they had sent a letter to the Indian High Commissioner which was defamatory of the two individuals, and another letter to a succeeding Indian High Commissioner later.