Fiji judge dismisses lawyer Richard Naidu’s guilty conviction over ‘scandalising court’ case

Suva lawyer Richard Naidu
Suva lawyer Richard Naidu . . . last year's contempt of court conviction for a satirical social media comment has been dismissed and ordered to be removed from the legal record. Image:

By Rashika Kumar in Suva

Suva lawyer Richard Naidu is a free man after the Suva High Court ruled this week that no conviction be recorded against him.

High Court judge Justice Daniel Goundar ruled on Tuesday that the charge of contempt scandalising the court against Naidu be dismissed.

He said summons to set aside the judgment that had found Naidu guilty in November last year was by consent and was dismissed as he did not have jurisdiction.

Justice Gounder ordered the parties to bear their own costs.

While delivering his judgment, Justice Gounder said while mitigation and sentencing were pending, a new government had come into power and a new Attorney-General had been appointed.

He said that after the change of government [FijiFirst lost the general election last December], Justice Jude Nanayakkara, who had been previously presiding over the case, had resigned as a Fiji judge and left the jurisdiction without concluding proceedings.

Justice Gounder said the new Attorney-General, Siromi Turaga had taken a different position regarding the proceedings, which he had expressed in an affidavit filed in support of the summons to dismiss the proceedings.

Ruling set aside
Turaga stated that his view was that the proceedings should never have been instituted against Naidu in the first place.

In the affidavit, Turaga said he had conveyed to Naidu that his view was that the ruling of 22 November 2022 ought to be set aside and the proceedings dismissed.

He added that Naidu had confirmed he would not seek to recover any costs he had incurred in defending the proceedings.

Justice Gounder said the Attorney-General played an important function as the guardian of public interest in contempt proceedings which alleged conduct scandalising the court.

Lawyer Richard Naidu’s conviction ruled not to be recorded and the charge of contempt dismissed. Video:

He said the position of the Attorney-General had shifted and he was not seeking an order of committal against Naidu.

The judge said Turaga dkid not support the findings that Naidu was guilty of contempt scandalising the court.

He said it had not been suggested that the present Attorney-General was acting unfairly as the representative of public interest in consenting to an order setting aside the judgement.

Facebook posting
Naidu was found guilty in November last year by High Court judge Justice Jude Nanayakkara for contempt scandalising the court.

Naidu posted on his Facebook page a picture of a judgment in a case represented by his associate that had the word “injunction” misspelt [as “injection”], and then made some comments that he was pretty sure the applicant wanted an injunction.

The committal proceeding was brought against Naidu by the then Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Naidu was represented by Jon Apted while Feizal Haniff represented the Attorney-General.

Rashika Kumar is a Fijivillage reporter. Republished with permission.

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