PUTRAJAYA: Online news portal publisher Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd and two of its editors lost their appeal over their bid to replace the judge assigned to hear a libel suit filed against them by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Following this decision, Seremban High Court judge Datuk Wira Kamaludin Md Said will hear Najib’s lawsuit against the appellants.
A Court of Appeal’s three-man panel led by Justice Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh today dismissed their appeal after ruling that Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin’s decision to assign Kamaludin to hear the lawsuit was not amendable to judicial review.
He also said the judicial review of Mkini Dotcom and its two editors was filed out of time.
The panel which also comprised justices Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli ordered Mkini Dotcom, its editor-in-chief, Steven Gan and chief editor Fathi Aris Omar to pay RM10,000 in legal costs.
The trio were appealing against a High Court refusal to grant them leave to commence a judicial review to quash the decision of the Chief Judge of Malaya who appointed Kamaludin to hear the defamation suit.
They were seeking a mandamus order directing the Chief Judge of Malaya to assign a judge from the civil division of the Kuala Lumpur High Court to hear the suit.
They filed the application on the grounds that Kamaludin had been transferred to the Seremban High Court. Prior to this, the judge had served at the Kuala Lumpur Civil High Court.
Najib, who is suing in his personal capacity, and UMNO executive secretary Datuk Ab Rauf Yusoh, filed the libel suit against the three parties over a series of readers’ posts published on their website.
The law suit centred on two articles published by Malaysiakini on the www.malaysiakini.com portal on May 14, 2014.
The two plaintiffs also claimed that the publication of the two articles had allegedly marred their reputation and sparked allusions that UMNO was incompetent as a political body and backbone of the Barisan Nasional.
Lawyer Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, representing the appellants submitted that was no compelling reason for the matter to be heard by Kamaludin at the Seremban High Court since there were many other judges in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Senior federal counsel Amarjeet Singh Serjit Singh argued that the Chief Judge of Malaya’s power under section 20 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 was exclusively a domestic matter concerning internal management of dispensing of work among judges of the High Court and thus, his decision was not amendable for judicial review.
Lawyer Norhazira Abu Haiyan held a watching brief for Najib and Ab Rauf.