No wonder of late, politicians were seen threatening reporters with defamation suit at the very moment when they were asked “sensitive” questions. Hence, “You ulang I saman!” is the much talked about phrase amongst journalists and other Malaysians.
Surely any lawyer worth his salt knew or ought to have known that under the new Order 18 Rule 12 (1A) of the new Rules of Court 2012, which came into effect on 1-8-2012 (a good 6 months ago), clearly states that “No party shall quantify any claim or counter claim for general damages” or in Bahasa Malaysia “Tiada pihak boleh menyatakan kuantiti apa-apa atau tuntutan balas bagi ganti rugi”, which has been reproduced above. That is to say in the statement of claim of a law suit including defamation actions, no party shall quantity a sum for general damages in their statement of claim or counter-claim. Order 18 is the rules for pleading filed in court.
How could one justify a claim for RM100 million for lost of reputation and just a few million for lost of live or incapacitated in a case involving road accident?
This said Order and Rule was incorporated into the new Rules of Court 2012 because of those mega suits that were filed previously in Court and the public outcry among lawyers that old Rules of the High Court 1980 had to be overhauled to meet new challenges and to prevent such abused.
The Rules Committee and the Subordinate Courts Rules Committee consisted of representatives from the Bar Council, Sabah Law Association and Advocates Association of Sarawak has made a new combined rules of procedure for the application in the High Court and the subordinate courts throughout the country that replaces / supercedes the current Rules of the High Court 1980 and the Subordinate Courts Rules 1980. Both of these committee were headed by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court.
The new Rules of Court 2012 was put in force by the current Chief Justice of the Federal Court, YAA Tun Dato’ Seri Arifin bin Zakaria (Dato’ Lela Negara).
Yet very recently we have witnessed certain lawyer who was still very mindful of inserting a figure of RM100 million in his special client’s statement of claim for general damages in a defamation suit when he knew from the very outset that he has acted against the said Order 18 Rule 12 (1A). What a curious habit for a professional!
Surely the quantification of RM100 million in the defamation suit was not done due to ignorance. Anyway ignorance of the law is not a defence in law. Yours truly leave it to the readers to come to your own conclusion.
When a defendant is found to be liable in an action which includes a defamation action, it is only the learned Judge that will decide on the quantum for general damages to be awarded based on the facts of the case and guided by the trend of general damages that have been awarded by the Courts.
Lawyers should be reminded not to use the courts to politicise and/or as a mean to divert public attention of matters which were already in the public domain.
In the light of the filing of the said mega defamation or other suit in total disregards of the said Order 18 Rule 12 (1A), Bar Council is duty bound to immediately issue a directive to all lawyers that Order 18 Rule 12 (1A) should be strictly adhered to when filing a law suit in court. This is to safeguard the good image of the Bar otherwise we will see more of the mega suits be filed in the coming days or weeks as the 13th GE is approaching.