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Friday, August 12, 2022

Rewcastle Brown’s bid to challenge defamation charge premature, rules court


Clare Rewcastle Brown is accused of defaming Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah in her book, ‘The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose’. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has ruled that it is premature to refer to the Federal Court to determine the constitutionality of a criminal defamation charge framed against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle Brown

Judge Zaini Mazlan said, as such, he had come to the conclusion not to consider the merit of the application to refer two questions of the law to the apex court.

In September, Rewcastle Brown was charged with defaming Terengganu’s Sultanah Nur Zahirah in her book, “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose”, released in Malaysia four years ago.

A month later, she applied for the matter to be transferred from the Kuala Terengganu magistrates’ court to Kuala Lumpur and later to be struck out.

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The application had been scheduled to be heard on March 29.

However, Rewcastle Brown also made the reference application to have the Federal Court determine the constitutionality of the charge.

Zaini said although Rewcastle Brown’s application to transfer was patently fixed for hearing, the reference application had yet to be judged.

“The court has not decided whether to allow the case against the applicant (Rewcastle Brown) to be transferred to the High Court here,” he said.

He said Section 84(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act (CoJA) would only apply if the proceeding had been registered in the High Court.

He said Section 84(2) of the CoJA allowed the High Court to stay proceedings should the constitutionality question be referred to the
Federal Court.

As it stands now, he said, there were no proceedings to stay, should “I concur that the questions posed had merit to be referred to the Federal Court”.

Zaini said he found it incongruous to stay the transfer application for the disposal of the question when this court had yet to assume jurisdiction over Rewcastle’s criminal case.

He said the application to transfer should, therefore, be heard and decided by this court first.

He said Rewcastle Brown was at liberty to make the same application if her case was transferred to the High Court.

The judge has now fixed Dec 12 to hear the transfer application.

The sultanah had earlier filed a RM300 million suit against Rewcastle Brown, publishers Gerakbudaya Enterprise and Chong Ton Sin, and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd for defaming her in the book.

The trial concluded last week and parties will make their submissions next month. - FMT

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