High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo will decide whether Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings should be granted an injunction barring Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial from reposting allegations against him on her social media accounts on June 10.
Justice Kangaloo reserved her decision on the interim injunction sought by Cummings after hearing extensive submissions from his and her lawyers during a virtual hearing yesterday.
Presenting submissions in support of the injunction, Cummings’ lawyer Farai Hove-Masaisai claimed that his client was concerned that allegations made by Lutchmedial at public meetings and subsequently posted on her Facebook page, would be shared by users of the social media platform although they (the allegations) could eventually be deemed to be defamatory.
“The sting is with Facebook users sharing it as if it is the gospel truth,” Hove-Masaisai said.
He claimed that the proposed injunction only pertained to Lutchmedial and would not prevent other citizens from discussing the allegations against Cummings already in the public domain.
“We have not brought the United National Congress (UNC) in this,” he said.
He stated that Lutchmedial eventually had to prove the allegations she made, although his client provided evidence challenging her claims against him.
In his submissions, Lutchmedial’s attorney Anand Ramlogan, SC, said the injunction would breach Lutchmedial’s constitutional right to political expression.
“If you grant an injunction it will have a chilling effect on democracy by gagging and muzzling Senator Lutchmedial,” Ramlogan said.
“The horse has already bolted and they want to secure the horse after it has made three laps,” he added.
Ramlogan claimed that Lutchmedial’s allegations were based on information in the public domain and Cummings took numerous opportunities to respond.
“He has been holding press conferences to rebut the allegations and to tell his side of the story,” Ramlogan said.
Ramlogan suggested that some of Cummings’ personal information, including his telephone number and identification card number, which Cummings claimed Lutchmedial improperly released, could be easily obtained by members of the public.
“Your name and ID card number are on the electoral list pinned upon every rum shop,” he said.
Ramlogan noted that even if his client was not successful in defending the lawsuit, paying Cummings damages would be sufficient compensation.
Earlier this month, Cummings first threatened legal action against Lutchmedial, the Trinidad Express, its editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder and journalist Anna Ramdass, over comments Lutchmedial made over a leaked T&T Police Service Special Branch report during a United National Congress (UNC) meeting in San Fernando on May 5.
Cummings’ lawyers filed the lawsuit two days later, after none of the parties responded to the legal threat by the deadline they had set. Cummings then threatened another lawsuit over comments allegedly made by her during a subsequent UNC meeting.
Cummings’ lawyers claimed that Lutchmedial leaked confidential documents, including a source of funds declaration form, two letters of awards and a cheque which all referenced Cummings.
Since the Special Branch report was leaked, Cummings has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in relation to allegations of corruption and land grabbing contained in it.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has also refused to take any action in relation to the report, as he claimed that the Opposition was using it for political advantage whilst knowing that the information contained within it was unsubstantiated.
Lutchmedial is also being represented by Kent Samlal, while Jennifer Farah-Tull appeared alongside Hove-Masaisai for Cummings. The newspaper and its journalists were represented by Farees Hosein.