Federal Court defers ruling on Shafee's appeal against Malaysian Bar, Tommy Thomas and former judge VC George

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge)

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (Photo by Zahid Izzani Mohd Said/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 6): The Federal Court has reserved judgement in senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah's appeal over the dismissal of his lawsuit against the Malaysian Bar and two others relating to his conduct as the deputy public prosecutor in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Sodomy II case.

The Federal Court's three-member bench led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf heard submissions this morning via Zoom from Muhammad Shafee who represented himself as the appellant.

The other two respondents were former attorney-general Tommy Thomas and former Court of Appeal judge Tan Sri VC George.

Thomas was represented by lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, while George was represented by lawyer Porres Royan. Lambert Rasa-Ratnam appeared for the Bar.

Also presiding on the bench were Federal Court Judges Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli.

According to reports, in 2016, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed a defamation suit filed by Muhammad Shafee against the Malaysian Bar, Thomas, former Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong and George.

The Court of Appeal in 2018 rejected Muhammad Shafee's appeal and upheld the High Court's decision.

Last year, the Federal Court granted Muhammad Shafee leave to commence with today's appeal.

However, the leave for the appeal granted to Muhammad Shafee was only on breach of statutory duty by the Malaysian Bar, although the initial suit was based on defamation and breach of statutory duty as well.

Muhammad Shafee filed the suit in March 2015, claiming that on Feb 28, 2015, Thomas published and submitted a motion for discussion by the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Malaysian Bar on March 14, 2015. The motion was seconded by George.

The motion pertained to Muhammad Shafee's conduct as the deputy public prosecutor in Anwar's sodomy appeal in the Federal Court and claimed that he violated the legal profession's rules which prohibited lawyers from publicising themselves.

The motion also alleged that Muhammad Shafee participated in nationwide roadshows with the purpose of insulting a convicted prisoner and for bringing attention to his role in Anwar's conviction.

Muhammad Shafee said that he was suing all three parties on breach of statutory duty because they tried to pass a motion in the AGM and discuss his conduct and refer him to the disciplinary board.

Muhammad Shafee also argued that their actions amounted to a breach of the Legal Profession Act because discussing a lawyer’s conduct at a public forum amounts to breach of natural justice as he would not be able to defend himself and reply.

On Feb 10, 2015, the Federal Court affirmed Anwar's conviction of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and sentenced him to five years in jail.

Anwar, however, was given a full pardon by the King on May 16, 2018.

In his statement of claim, Muhammad Shafee sought, among other things, a declaration that the motion was mala fide because the purpose of the proposal was simply to embarrass him and that the AGM was not a proper forum to hear the motion.

Lam Jian Wyn & Kathy Fong