PUTRAJAYA, May 10 – The Court of Appeal today struck out an appeal by Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad against a High Court order that it pay RM200,000 in compensation to Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua Kiam Wee over a defamatory article. A three-man panel chaired by Justice Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh allowed Pua’s application for the appeal to be struck out on grounds that the newspaper publisher’s notice of appeal was incompetent before the court.
Pua’s counsel Guok Ngek Seong had earlier submitted that Utusan Melayu was required to first file an application to seek leave of the Court of Appeal in order to pursue its appeal, by virtue of Section 68(1)(a) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964. That section states that no appeal shall be brought to the Court of Appeal when the amount or value of the subject matter of the claim was less than RM250,000 except with the leave of the Court of Appeal.
Guok said Utusan Melayu’s appeal should be struck out because it did not obtain leave to appeal and therefore its notice of appeal was incompetent. However, Utusan Melayu’s lawyer Azhar Arman Ali contended that leave to appeal was not required because the value of the subject matter of the claim, for purposes of determining whether leave was required, should be based at the time the civil suit was filed and not on the award given by the High Court.
He said civil suit claims filed in the High Court were not less than RM1 million. Justice Zawawi, who presided with Justices Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, said the amount should be at the time the court gave the award. He also made an order for the deposit of RM1,000 for the appeal paid by Utusan Melayu to be given to Pua as legal costs.
On Sept 17 last year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur had assessed the damages in the civil suit and awarded RM200,000 to Pua after Utusan Melayu published on May 23 last year an apology over the publication of the article which Pua claimed was defamatory of him.
Guok told reporters that following today’s decision, the High Court order that Utusan Melayu pay RM200,000 to Pua was affirmed. Azhar, meanwhile, confirmed that his client had already paid Pua. He also told reporters that he would take instruction from his client on whether to bring the matter up to the Federal Court.