Appeal Decision: Prega Padayachee vs Public Eye

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Public Eye

Respondent: Prega Padayachee

Matter No: 109/2013

Decision on an Application for Leave to Appeal to the Appeals Panel

  1. The applicant published a letter which alleged that the respondent, an official at a Hindu temple in Pietermaritzburg, blatantly and barbarically pushed away women out of the way who were in a trance state during a ceremony.
  2. The respondent lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman that, firstly, he was not asked to comment, and that the allegations were false and did cause him harm. The first complaint was dismissed by the Ombudsman. The second one was upheld: without making a finding on whether the allegations were true or not, the Ombudsman ruled that the applicant “was not justified to publish the allegations…at the time of going to press”. He ordered that a corrective article be published, which he crafted.
  3. The applicant complains that the letter constituted fair comment. I disagree; I agree with the Ombudsman that applicant was not entitled to publish the letter under the circumstances. The applicant also complains that it was not given the opportunity to respond to the complaints. I do not agree. A copy of the complaint was sent to applicant. It responded “off the record”, and said that a formal response would be sent by the next Friday. When this did not happen, the office of the Ombudsman reminded applicant. What the applicant then did was to submit a tentative response, with some reservations. It was up to the applicant to decide how to respond, or at all; it cannot now complain that it has not been given the opportunity to respond.
  4. I endorse the reasons given by the Ombudsman, and rule that the application be and is hereby dismissed.

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chairperson, Appeals Panel.

14 August 2013