In July 2017, then MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan filed the suit against Lim over remarks he made at a press conference at the Parliament building on March 15, 2016. MCA wanted RM100 million in general and exemplary damages.
In landmark judgement, Federal Court rules political parties cannot sue individuals for defamation
PUTRAJAYA (March 4): In a landmark judgement, a seven-member Federal Court bench unanimously ruled today that political parties cannot sue an individual for defamation.
This follows the bench led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf today allowing the appeal by Kepong member of Parliament (MP) Lim Lip Eng to strike out the suit by Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, the then-MCA secretary-general who sued on behalf of the party following statements made by the DAP representative.
Lim made allegations pertaining to the government and public funds allocation for National Type Chinese Schools (SJKC) at a press conference in Parliament on March 15, 2017.
Justice Rohana said they would answer the question posed to the apex court in the negative.
“We agree with the submissions by the appellant. We set aside the order of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The suit by the respondent (Ong) is struck out,” she said.
Sitting with her were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed and Federal Court judges Datuk P Nalini, Puan Sri Zaleha Yusof, Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan, and Datuk Harminder Singh Dhaliwal.
The bench made no order as to costs due to the public nature of the application. Justice Rohana indicated the bench would also write the grounds for judgement later.
Lim was represented by counsels Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and Guok Ngek Seong, while lawyers Ng Chew Hor, Ang Boon Heng and Lim Rue Chee appeared for Ong.
The single legal question posed before the court was whether a political party can maintain a suit for defamation in light of the decisions in Goldsmith v Bhoyrul (1998) and Rajagopal v Jayalalitha (2006), which Justice Rohana had ruled in the negative.
MCA sought RM100 million in damages
MCA as the plaintiff filed the suit on July 17, 2017 through Ong and named Lim as the sole defendant, seeking RM100 million in damages.
The party claimed the DAP lawmaker had issued a defamatory statement at the Parliament lobby on March 15, 2017 which was later published in various print and digital media.
The party claimed that the defamatory words, among others, implied that the MCA had used the government funds allocated for the schools and was involved in corruption, and had tarnished its reputation.
Lim applied to strike out the suit on the grounds that MCA, as a political party, had no legal standing to sue an individual, citing English case law Goldsmith v Bhoyrul (1998), which provided that political parties cannot be claimants in defamation suits.
The Kepong MP in his defence said as a people’s representative, he was entitled to question issues of public interest and seek answers on issues concerning the people.
The High Court had dismissed Lim’s striking out application and the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal, resulting in his appeal at the Federal Court. On March 12 last year, a three-member bench led by Justice Azahar granted the lawmaker leave to hear his appeal, leading to today’s proceedings.
More to comeLam Jian Wyn
V Anbalagan -March 4, 2021 11:41 AM
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today struck out a defamation suit brought by MCA against Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng for alleging the party never used its own funds to give allocations to Chinese schools and that it had instead pocketed public funds.
A seven-member bench chaired by Rohana Yusuf said Lim’s appeal was allowed and the single question of law posed “is answered in the negative”.
“The suit is struck out. There is no order to costs as it is a public interest issue,” she said.
The question proposed to the Federal Court last year was whether a political party had the capacity to maintain a defamation action in light of the decision of Goldsmith v Bhoyrul.
Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Lim, said the ruling meant political parties could not bring a defamation suit against individuals.
Others on the bench were Azahar Mohamed, Nallini Pathmanathan, Zaleha Yusof, Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.
In July 2017, then MCA secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan filed the suit against Lim over remarks he made at a press conference at the Parliament building on March 15, 2016.
Ong said Lim’s remarks had seriously injured MCA’s reputation. The party sought RM100 million in general and exemplary damages.