Appeal hearing by Utusan Melayu, ex-journo adjourned as counsel under COVID-19 quarantine

Appeal hearing by Utusan Melayu, ex-journo adjourned as counsel under COVID-19 quarantine

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today postponed the hearing of an appeal by Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad and its former journalist in a defamation suit filed against them by veteran lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon, as a counsel representing one of the appellants is under COVID-19 self-imposed quarantine.

Lawyer Datuk Wong Rhen Yen, representing the second appellant, Utusan Melayu, sought an adjournment of the appeal hearing as the counsel for the first appellant, former journalist Raja Syahrir Abu Bakar, is under self-imposed quarantine for 14 days.

Wong also applied for the postponement as he had just taken over the case from Messrs Shafee & Co on Sept 28 and needed time to discuss with his client the possibility of settling the matter.

“I would have to render an opinion to the liquidator of second appellant as to the prospect of success of this case, and if there’s possibility we can settle the matter and the case might be discontinued. Therefore, I ask for adjournment,” he said.

Utusan Melayu has been placed under creditors’ voluntary liquidation with an interim liquidator being appointed.

Lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu, representing Manjeet Singh, did not object to the postponement.

Justice Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, who chaired the five-member bench, granted the adjournment and rescheduled the hearing to Dec 1.

“The hearing will be heard together with another appeal by news portal Malaysiakini as instructed earlier,” Justice Vernon added.

Presiding with him were Federal Court judges Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Puan Sri Zaleha Yusof, Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim and Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang.

On Sept 26, 2011, Manjeet Singh filed a RM2.5 million defamation suit against former Padang Serai Member of Parliament N. Gobalakrishnan, former journalist Raja Syahrir Abu Bakar, Utusan Melayu and Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (TV3) in relation to Gobalakrishan’s interview with the media on Aug 16, 2011.

In his statement of claim, he said that Gobalakrisnan had made derogatory remarks against him.

On Sept 11, 2015, Manjeet Singh won his suit against Gobalakrishnan, Raja Syahrir and Utusan Melayu at the Kuala Lumpur High Court but his suit against TV3 was dismissed.

Then High Court judge Justice Nor Bee Arifin (now Court of Appeal judge) ordered Utusan Melayu and Raja Syahrir to pay a total of RM200,000 in damages and Gobalakrishnan RM150,000 in damages for defaming Manjeet.

However, she found no case against TV3.

On March 13, 2018, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court’s decision and ordered TV3 to pay RM200,000 in damages to Manjeet Singh. TV3 did not appeal against this decision.

The appellate court, however, dismissed the appeals by Gobalakrishnan, Utusan Melayu and Raja Syahrir and affirmed the High Court order.

Gobalakrishnan had failed to obtain leave to appeal to the Federal Court, while on July 24, 2018, Utusan Melayu and Raja Syahrir obtained leave to appeal to the Federal Court.

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini is appealing against the Court of Appeal decision that found the news portal’s report on the Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM) to be defamatory.

On May 23, 2016, Malaysiakini won the case in the High Court where RAGM was ordered to pay RM50,000 in costs to the news portal; however on Jan 11, 2018, the Appellate Court reversed the High Court’s decision.