(TRANSLATED FROM JAPANESE TEXT)
Decision delivered at 10:00 a.m. May 30th, 2000
The 28th Civil Department, Tokyo District Court
Shintaro Kato (Chief Judge)
Case No.: 1996-wa-10485, Claim for Damages
Plaintiff: Junko Nobuhira
Defendant: Daisaku Ikeda
|Text of Judgment:||1. The Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims.|
| ||2. Plaintiff shall bear the costs of the litigation.|
Outline of the Case
- This case covers the remainder of claims for damages against the Defendant, the Honorary President of Soka Gakkai, made by Nobuko Nobuhira (hereinafter referred as "Nobuko"), not a party in this particular case, and her husband Junko Nobuhira, the Plaintiff, both former Soka Gakkai leaders. The other claims for damages were dealt with separately and judgment passed on May 26, 1998.
- The Plaintiff claimed that his right to pursue a peaceful domestic life had been violated when Nobuko confessed that she had been raped twice, once in and around August 1983, and once in and around August 1991, and based upon tort, sought payment of 25 million yen for damages and 4.02 million yen in attorney's fees, amounting to 29.02 million yen in total, plus damages for arrears at the rate of five percent per annum as prescribed in the Civil Code from July 3, 1996, the day after the date of service of the complaint, up to the date the payment is made in full.
- The Defendant claimed that the present lawsuit was an abuse of right of [legal] action and unlawful, and should therefore be dismissed. The Plaintiff denied this point.
Reasons for the Judgment
The Plaintiff and his wife are senior citizens without any kind of authority or power who previously belonged to a certain religious group. In contrast, the Defendant is the honorary president of the same group: one of the largest religious organizations in Japan with a huge membership. If the Plaintiff's claims are true, Nobuko underwent an extremely humiliating, tragic experience for a woman. Bringing such a [legal] action would require a considerable degree of resolution. Claims of this nature frequently represent the weak's attempt to stand up against the powerful, and deserve careful attention. Although Nobuko's claims were legally barred by [expiration of the limitation period as prescribed by] the Statute of Limitation, we considered it the Court's obligation to investigate what had really happened since the Plaintiff's claims were still subject to adjudication.
It goes without saying that everyone is equally entitled to utilize the civil [legal] procedure regardless of his or her social status. And if it is procedurally necessary in order to ascertain the truth, no one is exempted from examination in open court for all his or her wealth, power and influence. With this self-evident principle in mind and being fully aware of the possibilities of examining the Plaintiff, the witnesses and the Defendant himself, if necessary, and always conscious of the fact that the failure to reveal the truth will result in the loss of public confidence in civil trials and damage their authority, we have looked into the Plaintiff's claims and assertions and the Defendant's argument with no bias, and closely investigated the records, carefully examining the validity of the proofs and rebuttals presented.
II. Abuse of the Right of Action
- The right of action is the people's right to take legal action as Plaintiff and seek to settle a dispute over their claim in court by judgment on its merits. In civil suits, abusing the right of action and using it in bad faith should not be allowed. Thus, when the right of action is abused, the claim ought to be dismissed on the premise that it is unlawful.
- In such cases where the purpose of bringing the action is not to sincerely realize the Plaintiff's substantive right, or to resolve a conflict with sincerity, but an unlawful one, seeking to put the other party in the position of Defendant for the purpose of causing him or her tangible and intangible disadvantages and burdens, not only in court, but also out of court; and if the right or legal relationship claimed by the Plaintiff is legally unfounded and there is little need to protect his or her right; in this case the action is considered to be extremely unreasonable and against good faith in light of the objective and purpose of the civil procedural system as a whole, and the claim should be dismissed as unlawful because it is an abuse of the right of action. In determining whether right of action is being abused or not, the following are taken into consideration for a comprehensive judgment: The intention and purpose of the Plaintiff; the process leading up to the action; existence and/or probability of the existence of the factual and legal bases of the Plaintiff's claimed right or legal relationship; their legal nature and factual background; the Plaintiff's attitude and conduct during the course of the proceedings; the burden imposed upon the other party's side by the suit and proceedings; and the disadvantages and burdens caused, in court and out of court, by the lawsuit to the other party and others involved in the case.
III. Regarding the Plaintiff's Claims
- The events leading up to the filing of this lawsuit
- The Plaintiff and Nobuko were removed from their Soka Gakkai positions in May 1992 because they had troubled the members by taking advantage of their positions as leaders to repeatedly borrow money from them, an act categorically prohibited in the organization. Subsequently, they left Soka Gakkai in December 1993.
- The Plaintiff brought an action against the Defendant in January 1995 claiming the return of the payment for a grave he had purchased in the Atsuta Memorial Park, but lost the case. The Plaintiff made numerous telephone calls to Soka Gakkai Headquarters from September 1995 through December 1995, threatening to sue the Defendant for fraud and rape unless his payment for the grave and donations to the organization were returned. All his calls were ignored.
- Nobuko published memoirs concerning the alleged assaults in the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho issued in February 1996 and Jiyu no Toride (Fortress of Freedom), the publication of the Association of Victims of Soka Gakkai.
- The Plaintiff asserted that the removal from leadership posts resulted from Nobuko's letter to the Defendant protesting against the wrongdoings. There is, however, no evidence to corroborate this. The Plaintiff claimed that Nobuko did not reveal the wrongdoings to him until immediately before the publication of her memoirs or the time of her interview. But this was unnatural when we consider the amount of the time that had elapsed.
- The alleged assault of August 1983
- Café Loire, claimed by the Plaintiff as the scene of the attack, did not exist in August 1983.
- According to Nobuko's memoirs printed in Shukan Shincho and other publications, the attack allegedly took place in Café Loire on the grounds of Soka Gakkai Hakodate Training Center on August 19, 1983. However, the Plaintiff changed the claim in this case without reasonable explanation and stated that it had happened in a temporary structure built in the eastern part of the premises between August 18th and 20th.
- The Plaintiff stated on the day of the 13th oral proceedings, 3 years and 8 months after the suit was filed, that Nobuko had also been raped by the Defendant in June 1982, and Café Loire was the place of the rape of that year, and that the incident of 1983 had taken place outdoors. It requires a reasonable justification to change the original claim since the number of assaults is a crucial aspect of Nobuko's claim. The Plaintiff's explanation of how Nobuko came to recall the experience of 1982 and her explanation that her memory had confused and merged the two separate incidents into one is extremely unnatural.
- In addition to the above, the Plaintiff's change of claims coincided with the Defendant's rebuttal and counter evidence offered in disputing the Plaintiff's initial claims.
- In the photographs taken after the alleged incident, there was no sign of injury, and Nobuko was smiling. It is extremely hard to believe that she had been victimized.
- The alleged assault of August 1991
- Nobuko wrote in her memoirs published in Shukan Shincho and other publications that she had been raped around 7:30 a.m. on August 16, 1991. The Plaintiff changed the time of the incident without reasonable explanation in this case to 7:30 a.m. around August 17th, and then to between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. between August 16th and 18th.
- Nobuko had not arrived at the scene of the alleged assault, Hakodate Training Center, in the early morning hours between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on August 16th, 17th or 18th.
- The Plaintiff claimed that the incident took place outdoors. It is virtually impossible empirically for anything like this to happen outside due to the constant presence of security staff and passersby.
- The photographs of Nobuko taken on August 16th through 19th showed her smiling with no signs of injury. It is extremely hard to believe that she had been assaulted.
- The Plaintiff's attitude during the course of the proceedings
- Disadvantages to the Defendant and Soka Gakkai
We must conclude that this alleged assault has extremely weak factual foundation for the following reasons:
We must conclude that this alleged assault has extremely weak factual foundation for the following reasons:
The Plaintiff's conduct during the course of this trial, including unreasonable changes of claims, demanding the Defendant's examination in person before the Plaintiff's own [examination], unfounded application to challenge a judge involved in the other part of the decision on this case, etc., are extremely unnatural, not in accordance with those of one who genuinely seeks redress for damages, and are entirely against good faith. Such an attitude is considered to stem from the lack of factual basis of the present suit.
It is clear and without doubt that the Defendant and Soka Gakkai suffered tangible and intangible disadvantages caused by the Plaintiff's action and the media coverage that preceded and followed it. It is inevitable for the Defendant to be a target of criticisms from various sources as honorary president of a major religious group. Nevertheless, there is no reason why the Defendant should have to suffer pointless media coverage of an extremely baseless, scandalous accusation such as this.
When we consider the fact that the factual foundation of the present claim is extremely scarce, it is unavoidable to find the following: that the Plaintiff and his wife held a grudge because they had been removed from their Soka Gakkai positions for troubling the members by taking advantage of their positions as leaders to repeatedly borrow money from them, an act prohibited in the organization; that after leaving Soka Gakkai, the Plaintiff and his wife sought the return of the payment for the grave and other moneys but failed; they then made threatening phone calls repeatedly to Soka Gakkai headquarters, again with no avail; that in order to get their revenge, they published Nobuko's memoirs in the mass media and as part of the scheme, filed this lawsuit in order to cause the Defendant tangible and intangible disadvantages in court and out of court. In other words, this lawsuit is not a sincere attempt to realize the Plaintiff's substantive right or to resolve a conflict, but an attempt to impose disadvantages, such as the burden of defending this suit, in court and out of court, on the Defendant. Further, the right claimed by the Plaintiff lacks factual basis and there is therefore very little necessity to protect this right. From this we can not avoid finding that the present suit, in light of the objective and purpose of the civil procedural system as a whole, is extremely unreasonable and counter to good faith. We must add that continuing the proceedings for this case is not only cruel to the Defendant, but may result in the court assisting the Plaintiff in pursuing his unjust scheme. Therefore, the Plaintiff's claim is an abuse of the right of action, and as such is nothing but unlawful, so the claim is dismissed.