The Court of Appeal has delivered a judgment against late veteran film actor Gamini Fonseka, over a defamatory action filed by him in the late 1990s claiming Rs.300 million as damages from a State Bank.
The greatest actor in Sinhala Cinema Gamini Fonseka had filed a defamatory action in Hambantota District Court against People's Bank and a bank manager claiming Rs.300 million with legal interest for alleged unlawful disclosure of bank loan details to the Ravaya Newspaper Editor.
The film star had alleged that Ravaya Newspaper had published an article with the meaning that Gamini Fonseka had defaulted a payment of Rs.2.5 million which he owes to a bank despite there being a settlement for the said loan facilities.
Late Gamini Fonseka had served as the Chairman and Managing Director of Sanasuma Holiday Resorts (Ltd) and maintained and operated three bank accounts in the Tissamaharama branch of People’s Bank.
The Sanasuma Holiday Resorts (Ltd) had obtained loan facilities and overdraft facilities from these bank accounts.
The business and occupancy at the hotel were adversely affected following the ethnic riots in July 1983 and in 1989 the hotel was destroyed by fire.
Mr. Fonseka had said he could not pay the loan instalments and interest regularly because of the aforesaid situation.
Following discussions between the bank and the company, a settlement was arrived at and Mr. Fonseka on behalf of the said company had paid that amount to the Tissamaharama branch of the bank as a full and final settlement.
Fonseka had stated that the newspaper article is distorted, false, defamatory and malicious, and it is a consequence of the conduct of the Bank officer of Tissamaharama branch which has caused irreparable loss and damage to his reputation and high esteem in a sum of Rs. 300 million.
Hambantota District Court dated December 13, 1999, had delivered a judgement in favour of Mr. Fonseka.
Having heard the appeal filed by the People’s Bank, the Court of Appeal two-judge-bench comprising Justices C.P. Kirtisinghe and R. Gurusinghe ordered to set aside the District Court Judgement and allow the appeal with costs fixed at Rs. 31,500.
It was alleged that the bank officer had given relevant bank loan details to the Ravaya Newspaper.
The Editor of the Ravaya Newspaper had admitted that he got the information from bank files, although he had not disclosed the name of the person who had given that information.
The Court of Appeal held that acts committed by the officer do not come within the scope of his employment.
"It is clearly outside the scope of his employment. Therefore, the People's Bank is not vicariously liable for the acts committed by the bank officer," the Court of Appeal observed.
Kushan De Alwis, P.C. with Counsel Chamath Fernando and Milinda Munidasa appeared for the People’s Bank.
Faiz Musthapha, P.C. with Mehran Careem and Bishran Iqbal appeared for Gamini Fonseka.