Civil Appellate Court grants leave to Sunday Leader upholding media freedom

Friday, 27 January 2012 04:07 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The High Court of the Western Province exercising Civil Appellate Jurisdiction in Colombo (Civil Appellate Court) recently granted Leave to Appeal in two Petitions filed by The Leader Publications Pvt Ltd. and Fredrica Jansz, Chief Editor of The Sunday Leader against an Enjoining Order issued by the Additional District Court of Colombo in a defamation action filed by Nalin Ladduwahetty, Attorney-at-Law.

The Civil Appellate Court also suspended the impugned Enjoining Order issued by the District Court in favour of Ladduwahetty.

The initial defamation action was filed in the District Court by Ladduwahetty alleging that he was defamed due to certain articles published in The Sunday Leader in February and March 2011 regarding allegations of assault and ragging by senior prefects against junior prefects at St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia.

Justice L.T.B Dehideniya with Justice H.C.J Madawala agreeing determined as follows based on the arguments put forward by Jansz’s Counsel Nigel Hatch P.C initially in the District Court as well as at the appellate stage:

 “In issuing this enjoining order the learned District Judge has issued the enjoining order preventing future defamation, upon the determination that there is a history of defamation against the Plaintiff. The court has not yet come to a conclusion as to whether the publications in issue are defamatory. The right of freedom of expression of the second Defendant - Petitioner ensured by the Constitution and the right of a media institution to raise pubic awareness about the violation of laws enforced to prevent ragging in educational institutions have to be taken into consideration in considering the said statements. Moreover the news value of a particular news has to be decided by the institution which publishes that news. Therefore, it cannot be ex facie determined that the malice of the Defendants is established by the fact that the news relating to the Plaintiff was published in the front page of the said newspaper.

 Thus although there is a serious issue to be tried and determined in this case, it is not established that there are ex facie acceptable facts as to whether this case will be determined in favour of the Plaintiff. In the circumstances, we suspend this enjoining order until this case is concluded.”

As such, the Court determined that it is appropriate to entertain an appeal over the relevant Order in the District Court and accordingly granted Leave to Appeal to the Petitioners.

G. Alagaratnam PC appeared for the Sunday Leader and Nigel Hatch PC appeared for Frederika Jansz whilst Romesh De Silva PC appeared for the Respondent Ladduwahetty.