The Bar Council president, Mr Christopher Leong said it was good not to allow the plaintiff in such cases to quantity the amount of damages. “When the plaintiff quantifies the damages in a manner wholly excessive in the statement of claim, it may be oppressive against the defendant and may become an instrument to threaten the defendants. You don’t use your action as a way to threaten the defendant”, he was quoted to have said in the Star HERE.
We hope that after the above statement from Bar Council president, the filing of mega defamation suit will be stopped.
Presumably the above statement was made in respond to yours truly posting entitled “If you “Ulang” can I “Saman” you with a RM100 million suit?”. Of course, there was no mention of this. It may just be a coincidence for all we know.
In January 2013 the learned judge, YA Datuk V T Singham, who presided over the case of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI) v Utusan Malaysia where DSAI quantified his claim for RM50 million. The learned Judge found Utusan liable but did not grant the award of RM50 million as claimed . The learned Judge ordered for the damages to be assessed by the Court in HERE.
Lawyers Mr N Surendran, who is also the vice-president of PKR, and Ms Latheefa Koya, who is a member of PKR, represented DSAI in the above defamation suit.
This was a clear precedent that the Court will decide on the award for general damages and that the litigant has no right to quantify the amount of general damages.
Yours truly believes that there was no appeal against the learned Judge’s decision in ordering for the general damages to be assessed.
It was clearly stated under Order 18 Rule 12 (1A) of the Rules of Court 2012 that “No party shall quantify any claim or counter claim for general damages”.
Despite the above decision and the said Order 18 Rule 12 (1A), the lawyer concerned saw it fit to repeteadly filed several mega defamation suits against Utusan Malaysia and TV3 for RM100 million.
January 2012 lawyers Mr N Surendran, who is also vice president of PKR, and Latheefa Koya, a member of PKR, represented DSAI by filing another mega defamation suit of RM100 million against Utusan and TV 3 where DSAI contended that the words published in the media have implied that “he was unfit to hold public office and a Muslim leader who held views inconsistent with the teachings of Islam”.
March 2012 the same two PKR lawyers filed another RM100 million mega defamation suit against Utusan and TV3 accusing them implying that “DSAI was behind the on-going crisis in Lahad Datu” in HERE.
On 21 March 2013 the same Mr N Surendran has filed another RM100 million mega defamation suit against blogger Papa Gomo over a recent sex video allegedly implicating the Opposition Leader, DSAI. But the suit was filed against Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris, who has since denied that he was the person blogging under the name of Papa Gomo in HERE.
Why was there a need to file a mega suit claiming to the tune of RM100 million when Order 18 Rule 12 (1A) clearly prohibited it? Was it a case of trying to thwart freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution? Or was it an exercise done to sensationalise and/or politicise the suit as a mean to divert public attention from what have been published?
Yours truly leaves it to the readers to judge.
In any event, Defendant faced with mega suits involving defamation could instruct his or her lawyer to file an application to strike out the suit for non-compliance of the said Order 18 Rule 12 (1A). The Court may not strike the whole suit but it will definitely strike out the amount claimed.
Defamation action is a double edged sword
Yours truly would like to remind potential litigant who is mindful of filing mega defamation suit to clear their name or for political purposes that defamation suit is also a double edged swords where it may clear the plaintiff’s name or hurt the plaintiff’s reputation further even if he or she were to win in court. The reason being that the character and the past of the Plaintiff will be thoroughly ventilated during the trial.
There was a classic defamation case of Dering v Leon Uris which was heard in the High Court in England in 1964 which case arose from the book EXODUS written by Mr Leon Uris. The Court found in favour of the plaintiff but he was only awarded the sum of one half Penny which is the smallest denomination in the English currency. During the trial the plaintiff’s past was revealed and closely scrutinized in the court. This case made big headlines in UK and it was later made into movie called QB VII, in HERE.
Defamation actions may not be a good idea to embark on especially when the plaintiff is a public figure. The publicity that generates from a defamation action in court can create a bigger audience for the false statements than they previously enjoyed. During the trial many things will be revealed before the court where the mass media can publish freely what have been revealed which will be suddenly known to the entire nation or even the whole world.
More often than not that the mass media are more interested in covering the specific details revealed during the trial than the ultimate resolution of it. May be this may also be the reason why defamation action was settled before trial begins or after a few days of trial.
It is hoped that the case of Dering v Leon in 1964 made famous by QB VII will be a lesson to all potential litigants in rushing into filing of a defamation action.