Court awards Chiman Patel nearly R1m after the retired judge sued the state
A summons was served on the retired KZN judge president nearly a year after a case was registered against him, but the case was withdrawn before the trial began
Retired KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel has been awarded R900‚000 in damages after he successfully sued the state for malicious prosecution.
Lindiwe Nxele‚ a clerk in the High Court in Durban‚ accused Patel of calling her "nonsense‚ trash‚ rubbish" and a "useless person" in 2013.
Patel’s reprimand had followed a delay in the delivery of office stationary‚ and in response Nxele had gone to the police to open a case.
A summons was served on Patel on Diwali nearly a year after the case was registered and KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions Moipone Noko mysteriously withdrew the criminal case before the trial was to commence in 2014.
Patel then instituted civil proceedings‚ claiming R3m‚ and culminating in Wednesday’s ruling.
High Court in Johannesburg Judge Aubrey Ledwaba‚ who heard the matter in the High Court in Durban‚ delivered judgment in Patel’s favour on Wednesday.
In doing so‚ Ledwaba fired off a scathing rebuke of Noko‚ saying that her decision to push ahead with the criminal prosecution of Patel was ill-considered.
"The second defendant [Noko] should have been satisfied that there was reasonable and probable cause not just a prima facie case against the plaintiff. The prosecutor should interrogate the docket in its entirety and apply his or her mind properly before taking a decision‚" Ledwaba said.
"If I accept the version of Nxele‚ it implies that advocate Noko was not a credible witness and she fabricated the evidence‚" he said in his judgment.
At the centre of Noko’s testimony was the assertion that Nxele wanted to go to court and could not be persuaded to pursue alternate dispute resolution.
But when Nxele took the stand‚ she said she merely wanted a face-to-face discussion with Patel.
"Advocate Noko insisted that Ms Nxele wanted the matter to go to court but Ms Nxele testified that she wanted to have a face-to-face discussion with the plaintiff.
"As I indicated that in the meeting held in Patel’s chambers the emotions were high‚ in my view advocate Noko should have considered this aspect before taking a decision to prosecute. It is not surprising that there are material contradictions in the versions of Ms Nxele‚" he said.
"The failure of advocate Noko to pursue mediation is‚ in my view‚ an indication that she was intent on seeing the matter being heard in a criminal court."
The NPA‚ as well as Nxele‚ will have to shoulder the costs of the award to Patel.