PUTRAJAYA — September 20, 2016: — The Federal Court will hear and determine if a public official can sue the media for defamation in an official capacity.
This follows a decision by a three-man bench led by Justice Tan Sri Hasan Lah to grant Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob leave to appeal against a Court of Appeal decision.
Last March 1 the appellate court truck out Adnan’s suit against Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad after ruling that a public official could not sue the media for defamation in his official capacity.
In today’s proceeding, Adnan’s counsel Americk Sidhu applied for the leave to appeal, seeking the Federal Court to determine five questions of law. Lawyer Datuk M. Reza Hassan for Utusan Melayu did not oppose the application.
One of questions of law is if the principles decided in an English case, Derbyshire County Council v The Times Newspapers Ltd & Others (1993), ought to be accepted as part of common law in Malaysia. The case law states that a local authority could not institute libel action in its official capacity.
Another question is if the decision in that case effectively prohibits defamation suits from being instituted by public officials in their official capacity.
Adnan’s other lawyer, Datuk Dr. Abd. Shukor Ahmad, told reporters that following today’s decision, his client could proceed to file his notice of appeal within 30 days.
Adnan sued Utusan Melayu over an article in Mingguan Malaysia under the headline ‘Hebat Sangatkah Adnan’ on November 9 last year.
He had sought general, aggravated and exemplary damages, an apology and an undertaking not to repeat the publication of such defamatory material against him.
Last July 23, Utusan Melayu lost its bid to get the civil suit struck out by the High Court. It then appealed to the
Court of Appeal which subsequently ruled in its favour.
The Court of Appeal held that Adnan, as MB and an elected representative, did not have the locus standi (legal standing) to sue Utusan Melayu in his official capacity. — Bernama