KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The High Court here today dismissed Umno Youth vice-chief’s application for leave to initiate committal proceedings against PKR vice-president Mohd Rafizi Ramli.
Judge S. Nantha Balan dismissed Khairul Azwan Harun’s application after finding that he had not crossed the minimum threshold for leave for committal under Order 52 Rule 3(2) of the Rules of Court 2012.
“I am of the view that there is no prima facie case of contempt. As the application does not meet the requisite threshold for the grant of leave, the application is hereby dismissed,” he said.
Khairul Azwan had sought the leave application to commence committal proceedings after Mohd Rafizi published statements in his blog pertaining to a suit by Khairul Azwan against him over the purchase of property by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) in Australia.
Khairul Azwan said there was a breach of the sub-judice rule, as the case was still pending in court, and therefore Mohd Rafizi had committed contempt of court.
In his judgment, Nantha Balan said as for the invitation or challenge to a debate about the Mara property purchase issue, he did not see this could be construed as breaching the sub-judice rule as debates were a healthy, vibrant and necessary aspect of a maturing democracy and progressive society.
He said on the facts of this case, the public interest element outweighed any argument on sub judice as debates on important public interest issues should not be stifled or be readily sacrificed on the altar of sub judice.
“But, in the present case, I do not see any exception applying to exclude public discussion or dissemination of matters concerning the Mara property purchase issue,” he said.
Nantha Balan also said that in the present case, he did not see any real and substantial attack on the judicial process or on the person.
He said the general rule was that the law of contempt could not be used to curtail public discussion on matters of public importance and public interest albeit that these matters might already be subject of a court action.
On July 31, last year, Khairul Azwan filed the suit against Mohd Rafizi for defaming him over the purchase of the property. The case was fixed for trial on June 6.
In his statement of claim, Khairul Azwan said Mohd Rafizi had been distributing and publishing defamatory statements against him during a press conference in Mohd Rafizi’s office at Uni Infiniti Mind Development Centre on July 6.
The plaintiff said he held a press conference denying the statements on the same day.
Khairul Azwan, who is Biosis Group Berhad director, said the statements, among others, had questioned his alleged involvement in the purchase and business dealings on the 746 Swanston Street property by a company wholly-owned by Mara Inc. Thrushcross Land Holdings Limited, which experienced a leakage of RM63 million.
Khairul Azwan said the defamatory statements were published in online portals which could be shared by Internet users worldwide.
He claimed that Mohd Rafizi’s words had tarnished his reputation as a businessman and politician, and despised by the public from alleged involvement in the dubious transactions for his own financial interest. — Bernama