MASERU — The High Court on Monday dismissed an application by First National Bank (FNB) to be absolved from a case in which a client is suing the bank for M15 million for injuria.
This means the matter will now proceed for trial.
Petlane Solomon Petlane is suing FNB for damages after he was allegedly arrested while inside the bank on August 29, 2009.
He is also suing the then branch manager Retšelisitsoe Tšosane, the commissioner of police as well as the attorney-general.
Petlane alleges that he was manhandled out of the bank’s banking hall by two police officers who had been called by Tšosane.
He claims Tšosane instigated his arrest after his girlfriend who worked at the bank turned down his romantic advances.
On Monday, High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase dismissed the bank’s application for absolution.
“It is a considered view of this court that in the circumstances, this is a case in which an application for absolution from the instance must fail,” Justice Mahase said.
“It is accordingly dismissed with costs to the plaintiff.”
The judge said when the police arrived in the bank they found Petlane being served by one of the tellers.
“There is unchallenged evidence that when the police so approached the plaintiff the plaintiff was nowhere near the office of the second defendant, the then branch manager at the time,” the judge said.
Justice Mahase noted that had Tšosane not reported to the police, the police officers would not have gone to the bank and harassed Petlane as he has alleged in his papers.
“The police did not go to plaintiff at that time on their own accord,” Justice Mahase said.
“They had received a report from the branch manager (Tšosane) that the plaintiff was obstructing bank services.”
She said the fact that Petlane was a customer or that he had been a customer of the bank had also not been denied.
“Equally, the fact that he went there for services and not for anything else has not been denied,” the judge said.
Justice Mahase said the fact that the police officers “did not even wait for Petlane to be served to finality before they approached and informed him in the presence of other customers as well as of the teller who was serving them, was embarrassing to anyone”.
She said what transpired after Petlane was removed from the desk where he was being served and the words which were uttered to him that he had been reported to have caused an obstruction constituted a further ugly and embarrassing scene to him.
“Such words directed to him and the treatment of police to plaintiff are indeed humiliating.”
Justice Mahase said it was the considered view of the court that the plaintiff was approached when he was being served at the counter.
She said the “plaintiff is justified to allege that his dignity was impaired by the treatment of the police, who in turn had received a false report from the defendant”.
“What later transpired in the actual banking hall and in the ATM hall exacerbated that situation,” the judge said.
Advocate Letuka Molati is appearing for the plaintiff while Advocate Philip Loubser is appearing for the bank.