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Monday, November 30, 2020

Utusan withdraws defamation appeal against ex-Bar president


Manjeet Singh (right) has filed bankruptcy proceedings against former Padang Serai MP N Gobalakrishnan to obtain a judgment sum over the same lawsuit.

PUTRAJAYA: A nine-year legal battle between the publisher of a Malay daily and former Malaysian Bar president Manjeet Singh Dhillon for defamation has come to an end, his lawyer said.

This follows the problem-ridden Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd withdrawing its appeal in the Federal Court against Manjeet.

Americk Sidhu said a lawyer, who is appearing for a liquidator, informed him that a notice of discontinuance was filed recently, ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled hearing before a five-member bench.

“We have also agreed to forego costs we were entitled to,” Americk told FMT, adding that the publisher and its reporter had paid the judgment sum a long time ago.

It is learnt that RM200,000 was held by a stakeholder pending the disposal of the appeal.

Manjeet filed a RM2.5 million defamation suit in 2011, naming former Padang Serai MP N Gobalakrishnan, Utusan, its reporter Raja Syahrir Abu Bakar and TV3 as defendants.

On Sept 11, 2015, High Court judge Nor Bee Ariffin ordered Gobalakrishnan to pay Manjeet RM150,000 in damages while Utusan and Raja Syahrir would have to pay RM200,000.

However, she rejected Manjeet’s suit against TV3 and ordered him to pay RM50,000 in costs after finding no evidence that he had been defamed by the television station.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals by Gobalakrishnan and Utusan but allowed Manjeet’s appeal against TV3.

The Umno-linked broadcaster was ordered to pay RM200,000 in damages and it did not file an appeal in the Federal Court.

Last year, Gobalakrishnan’s appeal process also came to an end when the Federal Court refused him an extension of time to file his leave application to appeal the Court of Appeal ruling.

Americk said bankruptcy proceedings had been filed against the politician to obtain the judgment sum.

In her judgment, Nor Bee said there was no doubt Gobalakrishnan had uttered the defamatory words during an interview with the media.

Based on that interview, Utusan published an article on Aug 17, 2011 with the headline “Manjeet selalu burukkan kerajaan” (Manjeet always disparages the government).

The judge said the article could tarnish Manjeet Singh’s reputation as he was then representing lawyer N Pathmanaban, an accused in the murder of cosmetics millionaire Sosilawati Lawiya.

She said the defence of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege advanced by Gobalakrishnan, Raja Syahrir and Utusan was not helpful to them. - FMT

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