PUTRAJAYA (Jan 19): The Federal Court has fixed May 27 to hear the appeal by National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp) and its chairman Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail over a defamation suit against former Pandan member of Parliament Rafizi Ramli that was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2019.
The date was fixed by Federal Court deputy registrar Suhaila Haron last Friday (Jan 15) during case management.
The hearing date was confirmed by Rafizi's counsels Ranjit Singh and Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, as well as Sarah Abishegam, who appeared for Salleh and NFCorp, to theedgemarkets.com.
There are four issues of law to be decided after the highest court in the country granted leave for the merits of NFCorp and Salleh's appeal to be heard, namely:
- Whether in a defamation action, a letter of demand before action is a prerequisite to the statement of claim.
- Is there a co-relationship between Section 10 of the Defamation Act and a letter before action in a defamation action?
- Does the plaintiffs (Salleh and NFCorp) in a defamation action, either in letter before action or in their statement of claim, owe a duty to the defendant to elaborate the particulars of the untruthfulness of the impugned defamatory statement apart from unequivocally stating that the defamatory impugned statement was simply untrue, to enable the defendant to consider seeking the benefit of Section 10 of the Defamation Act 1957?
- Can the very same aspect of “malice” which defeated the defendant's defence of qualified privilege survive the defence of fair comment in the same court of action? Does malice have different or like species relevant to the distinct defences of qualified privilege and fair comment?
A three-member apex court bench led by Federal Court judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli granted leave on Sept 24 last year, after an admission by both NFCorp and Salleh's counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Rafizi's lawyer Ranjit that the Court of Appeal judgment delivered in May 2019 was erroneous.
Salleh and NFCorp had sued Rafizi, who is also PKR vice president, for his remarks in a press conference in 2012, alleging that the company had used the RM250 million government loan as collateral to purchase commercial properties at KL Eco City.
In the end, Salleh did not purchase the said properties as alleged by the former federal lawmaker.
The company denied the claim, saying the purchases were private investments made by the company’s directors, who were Salleh and his three children with his wife, former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
Salleh and NFCorp initially won the suit at the High Court, where on Oct 31, 2016 it ordered Rafizi to pay RM150,000 in damages to Salleh and RM50,000 to the company for defamation.
However, a three-member Court of Appeal bench led by Justice Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer had ruled Rafizi’s appeal had merits and ordered the damages and RM100,000 in costs paid by Rafizi to Salleh and NFCorp previously to be returned to him.
Moreover, the former Pandan lawmaker was also awarded costs of RM110,000.
Shafee, when applying for leave last year, described the appellate court judgement as “completely off-tangent” as it was decided on something which was not pointed out in the appeal.
Ranjit also concurred that his client's defence of fair comment, which was the main point in the case, was not addressed in the judgment, and the court decided on another matter on its own.