The High Court yesterday threw out a $125 million defamation suit that was filed by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall against his successor Basil Williams SC due to the failure by his attorneys to adhere to strict timelines set by the court.
Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, who was hearing the matter, threw out the case, owing to Nandlall’s attorneys not keeping case-management dates set by the court, in accordance with the new Civil Proce-dure Rules.
The lawsuit stemmed from allegations made by Williams about Nandlall’s acquisition of Common-wealth Law Reports while he served as the Attorney General under the former PPP/C government.
Nandlall, in an invited comment, said that Williams’ victory will be short-lived, as he intends to appeal, noting that the case was not determined on its merits.
He told Stabroek News that he will be appealing the matter because extensions of time in similar circumstances are granted regularly by judges.
According to Nandlall, the witness statements, which his attorneys filed out-of-time, were prepared for yesterday’s hearing, and a written application for extension of time to file them was submitted, but the court refused to entertain the request.
Nandlall was not present at court yesterday, but his lawyers, Manoj Narayan and Rajendra Jaigobin were.
Nandlall’s claim was filed on April 4 of this year. Some three weeks later, he was charged and placed before the Magistrates’ Court with fraudulently converting over $2 million in the reports.
That trial is still ongoing.
At a hearing on the suit on September 13, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry had indicated to both sides, the different timelines for the hearing of the case, which had to be complied with.
Thereafter, Nandlall was granted seven days’ leave to file an amended statement of claim, while Williams, through his attorney Patrice Henry, was given from September 20 to 25 to reply, if necessary.
By October 2, both parties were to layover documentary and other evidence they wished to rely on and exchange same. By this date, they were also required to file the list of names of the witnesses they intended to call.
October 9 was then set for them to file the statements of those witnesses. Then they were given an opportunity until October 16 to file rebuttal witness statements.
They were also expected to file agreed statements of facts by this time.
But when the case was called yesterday, Henry, who took issue with Nandlall not adhering with the timelines set by the court, made an oral application for the proceedings against his client, to be dismissed.
His application, which was made under Part 25:04 (3b) of the Supreme Court of Guyana Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 2016, was upheld by the judge, who noted that cost is to be determined by the Registrar.
The rule provides, “if a party fails to comply with a timetable the court has fixed, another party may make an application to dismiss they party’s proceedings.”
The overarching objective of the CPR is to enable the court to deal with cases justly, taking into account, among other things, the expedition of hearings.
Late last week, Henry had filed an affidavit to have the case dismissed, but this was denied as it was out-of-time. As a result, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry awarded Nandlall cost in the sum of $30,000, which was imposed against Williams.
With the exception of this late affidavit filed by Williams, for which he was penalised, all other timelines in the case were adhered to by him and his lawyer.
Nandlall was seeking:
(i) damages in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for slander published on the 24th day of March, 2017, at a press conference hosted at the National Communication Network Inc.;
(ii) damages in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for libel published on the 24th day of March, 2017, at a press conference hosted at the National Communication Network Inc.;
(iii) damages in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for libel published in the Guyana Times Newspaper, at page 11, March 25th, 2017;
(iv) damages in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for slander published during an outreach program in Ber-bice, on the 26th March, 2017;
(v) damages in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) for libel published by Demerara-waves on the 27th day of March, 2017;
(vi) exemplary/aggravated damages;
(vii) interest on all damages awarded pursuant to Section 12 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Chap 6:02; and
(viii) an injunction restraining the Defendant, by himself, his servants and/or agents from publishing, or caused to be published or saying or caused to be said or repeating of and concerning the Claimant, the offending statements in relation to the Commonwealth Law Reports.
The charge against Nandlall before the lower court is that between May 8, 2015 and May 29, 2015, at Georgetown, being a bailee and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and having 14 Law Reports of the Commonwealth, valued at $2,313,853 and property of the Ministry, he fraudulently took or converted them to his own use and benefit.
That trial continues on November 14