PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has granted leave to Sistem Television (M) Bhd (TV3) to appeal in relation to a defamation suit filed by former Perak mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin over his tweets on the WWW1 vehicle registration number bid that was won by the Sultan of Johor.
Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, who chaired a five-man panel, allowed leave to TV3 to appeal after its lead counsel Liew Teck Huat raised on the issue of public perception on whether there was a â€˜judicial biasâ€™ in a coram, which ruled in Mohammad Nizar’s favour last year.
With him in the panel are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Ahmad Maarop and Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Liew argued that Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (now retired) had applied to recuse himself when he was a judicial commissioner from hearing a judicial review application in 2009 by Mohammad Nizar to declare him the legitimate mentri besar because of his (Mohamad Ariff) previous affiliation with PAS.
(Justice Mohamad Ariff had said in 2009 that he had been a legal advisor and counsel for PAS on a number of election petition cases).
However, Liew argued that Justice Mohamad Ariff did not recused himself when he chaired a Court of Appeal’s panel to decide an appeal by Mohammad Nizar (a PAS member) which gives rise to public perception on danger of bias.
On Monday, the Federal Court has allowed for merits to be heard on a question of law whether there was an apparent bias or a real danger of bias on the part of the coram of the Court of Appeal having regard to the previous relationship between the chairman of the coram and Mohammad Nizar.
TV3 had earlier submitted eight questions of law in its application for leave to appeal over the suit.
In his RM50mil lawsuit, Mohammad Nizar said the television station had broadcast a defamatory statement over its Buletin Utama news programme on May 30, 2012 regarding his tweets on May 28, 2012.
He said the statement implied that he had alleged that the Ruler had misused the people’s funds to purchase the RM520,000 number plate.
He had named TV3 and Buletin Utama producer Rohani Ngah as defendants.
High Court judge Justice Yeoh Wee Siam had on April 12, 2013 dismissed the suit after ruled that TV3 had succeeded in its defence based on justification and fair comment on a matter of public interest.
She ruled that TV3’s statements were comments or opinion, and not facts.
The Court of Appeal had on Feb 25 last year ruled that TV3 was liable for defaming Mohammad Nizar over the number plate.
Mohamad Ariff unanimously allowed Mohammad Nizar’s appeal to set aside the decision of the High Court, after ruling that TV3 had failed to establish the defence of justification.
Earlier, Mohammad Nizar’s lead counsel Mohd Fitri Asmuni argued that
TV3’s claims not sufficient to say Mohamad Ariff is a supporter of PAS.
On another application for leave by Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd to appeal over Mohammad Nizar’s similar suit where he won RM250,000 in damages over the same number plate, the apex court said it would be determined upon disposal of the TV3 matter.
“To avoid embarassment, we see what happens in (TV3) case, if there is bias (or not),” Justice Md Raus said in adjourning the leave application to a date to be fixed later.
The Court of Appeal had in December 2013, upheld a High Court decision to award Mohammad Nizar RM250,000 damages in his suit against Utusan Melayu over the number plate.-The Star