The Civil High Court in Suva has sentenced Rajendra Chaudhry, son of Former Fiji’s Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry to 15 months in jail after being judged guilty of contempt of court. 

The jail term for Mr Chaudhry, a New Zealand-based lawyer, will be effective from the day of his arrest after Acting Chief Justice Kamal Kumar issued a bench warrant.

The court also ordered Chaudhry to pay a fine of Fijian $50,000 within 28 days from last Thursday.?He was also ordered to pay the applicant, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, costs for sentence hearing assessed in the sum of $3,000.

Chaudhry had made defamatory comments on Facebook against the former Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Chief Registrar Justice Yohan Liyanage and the Fijian judiciary between September and October 2018, the Fiji Sun reported.

On behalf of the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General filed a notice of motion on October 19, 2018, to seek an order of committal against Chaudhry for contempt of court and that he be committed to prison, be ordered to pay a fine and pay costs for proceedings on an indemnity basis.

In the sentencing, Justice Kumar said the comments published by Chaudhry were quite serious in nature.

“Publication of the comments by the respondent (Chaudhry) was done deliberately with intent to interfere with the administration of justice. Chaudhry published the comments recklessly.

“The comments were aimed at undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Fiji and Fijian democracy.

“The comments (most of it) are very damaging and calculated to tarnish the reputation, integrity and dignity of the Fijian Judicial System.

“Publishing photos of the Chief Justice at that time and Chief Registrar have exposed them to ridicule and embarrassment in the eyes of the public, which puts fear in fair-minded persons as to the state of administration of justice in Fiji in the hands of two senior judicial officers.

“Chaudhry has not shown any remorse for his action and has not sought any leniency from this court. The comments were totally unwarranted and scandalous,” Justice Kumar said.

He said there was a need to deter likeminded persons from publishing comments that affected public confidence in the justice system and the democratic process.