Court acquits Chandra

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Former National Federation Party provisional candidate Pradeep Chandra has been acquitted of a racial or religious vilification charge by the Ba Magistrate’s Court.

The judgment was handed down this week by Resident Magistrate Samuela Qica after he ruled that the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Chandra used language that amounted to religious vilification.

Mr Chandra was dragged to court to answer to allegations of inciting hatred against the Muslim community in Fiji or made statements which may amount to racial or religious vilification being a person representing the NFP in 2018.

In his ruling, Mr Qica noted that there were inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence and that there was discrepancy because he did not report the matter directly to the police or to FICAC but some intermediary regarding the formal complaint.

Mr Qica said it appeared that Viam Pillay, a FijiFirst party member and a political opponent of Mr Chandra, collected the complainant and a Fiji Sun journalist for the interview which was conducted at the Ba Market.

Mr Qica also explained in his ruling that he saw no reason for the investigators not taking Mr Pillay’s statement as he was a material witness for prosecution and would have alleviated the reasonable doubt raised in the defence narrative who argued during the hearing that this was a set-up by Mr Pillay, the political opponent.

The magistrate said he found the complainant, Jaswant Lal’s, evidence unreliable and not credible. D

efence counsel Stephen Stanton said the acquittal of Mr Chandra marked the end of an ordeal that he and his family has endured .

“It also reaffirms the existence of the rule of law in Fiji and the importance of justice for all,” the Sydney-based lawyer said.

“The trial revealed anomalies in the investigation of an individual who was charged under the most serious circumstances with what were ultimately found to be evidential flaws so fundamental that they could never and should never have seen him charged.”

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