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Monday, September 27, 2010

Karpal: Written judgments in English invalid

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 27 — Court judgments written in English are invalid, the Federal Court was told today.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer Karpal Singh argued that judgments written by judges of the Federal Court, Court of Appeal, High Court and subordinate courts in both criminal and civil cases must be in Bahasa Malaysia by virtue of provisions in Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and section 8 of the National Language Act (NLA).

“All three judgments (written by Court of Appeal judges Abdul Malik Ishak, Datuk Azhar Ma’ah and Datuk Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad in English which had thrown out Anwar’s appeal) stand unconstitutional as they contravened Article 152 and section 8,” he said.

In fact, Karpal (picture) said, Abdul Malik’s judgment had stated that those were mandatory provisions to be strictly adhered to.

He said as the law currently stood, all proceedings, including judgment, must be in Bahasa Malaysia, except if the position came within section 8 of NLA proviso where a court could order proceedings be partly in Bahasa Malaysia and partly in English, by way of its own motion or on application of any proceedings after considering the interests of justice in those proceedings.

“The judgment is null and void. There is no valid judgment for this court (Federal Court) to proceed further with Anwar’s leave application to appeal. The court (Federal Court) should direct the Court of Appeal to write a proper judgment in the national language,” he said.

The veteran lawyer raised this issue as a preliminary point in a court proceeding hearing the matter on Anwar’s defamation suit against former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

On October 10 last year, the Court of Appeal threw out Anwar’s appeal, on a technicality, to set aside a High Court decision which had summarily struck out his RM100 million defamation suit against Dr Mahathir.

The Court of Appeal’s three-man panel held that the memorandum of appeal filed by Anwar in English was defective and invalid and that court documents must be filed in Bahasa Malaysia.

Anwar commenced legal action against Dr Mahathir in January 2006 for making a defamatory remark against him at the Malaysian Human Rights Conference on September 9, 2005.

The Federal Court’s three-man quorum led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria deferred their decision on the preliminary point to a date yet to be fixed. The other two judges were Federal Court judge Tan Sri James Foong and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Suriyadi Halim Omar.

Lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, representing Dr Mahathir, submitted on procedural incompliance, saying that it was an abuse of court process to bring up the preliminary point at the leave application stage.

Lingam said instead Karpal Singh must file in a proper application to raise the issue.

He explained that in the Court of Appeal, he had sought the court’s permission to submit his case in English and the court allowed him to do so.

“The judgment and orders (by the court) are always in Bahasa Malaysia but the grounds of judgment were in English because counsel in the proceeding had sought to conduct the proceeding in English under the National Language Act,” he said.

Outside the court, Karpal Singh told reporters that the decision on his preliminary point had a far-reaching consequence. He said it was the first time after independence that the issue was being raised.

“I would suggest, until the Federal Court decides on the issue, there should be a stay on all other cases in which judgments were written in English,” he said. — Bernama

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