Prominent Indo-Fijian lawyer may face jail for pointing out a spelling error

The case was brought by Fiji's Attorney General with reference to a Facebook post by Richard Naidu.

Richard Naidu, a prominent Indo-Fijian lawyer, has been found guilty of contempt scandalising the Fiji court.

The committal proceedings brought against Mr Naidu by Fiji’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, arise from a post on Mr Naidu’s Facebook page, in which he allegedly made comments about the judiciary following a case in February 2022.

Mr Naidu posted on his Facebook page (2 February 2022) a picture of a judgement in a case represented by his associate that had the word ‘injunction’ misspelt as ‘injection’ (a malapropism as the two are similar-sounding words), and then made some alleged comments that he was pretty sure the applicant wanted an ‘injunction.’

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Associate Professor Shailendra B. Singh, who teaches journalism at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva, tweeted: “In a closely followed case in Fiji & abroad lawyer @RichardKNaidu, once a potential candidate in next month’s election, found guilty of contempt for joking about misspelling ‘injunction’ (‘injection’) in a court doc. He faces the possibility of jail on Jan 5.”

Fiji’s Attorney General acknowledged that the error pointed out by Mr Naidu was indeed a spelling mistake. However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum went on to claim that Richard Naidu’s post was malicious and invited others to mock the judiciary, referencing the comments and responses from others on social media.

Mr Naidu was represented by Jon Apted while Gul Fatima represented Fiji’s Attorney General.

High Court Judge Justice Jude Nanayakkara said in his judgment that the preliminary objection to the admissibility of deposition in the affidavit of the Attorney General is partly allowed and concluded paragraph 12 of the Attorney General’s affidavit is a statement of opinion and therefore gives no weight whatsoever.

Further, Justice Nanayakkara found that the particulars contained in the statement of charge filed are proved beyond doubt by the evidence relied on by the Attorney General in his affidavit sworn on the 10th of June this year.

In Fiji, contempt of scandalising the court is punishable by large fines and between 3 and 6 months’ imprisonment. This case will now be called on 5 January 2023 for sentencing and mitigation submissions.