Shafee gets leave to appeal dismissal of defamation suit against Malaysian Bar, three others

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court August 12, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court August 12, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 19 ― Senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah can appeal to the Federal Court over the dismissal of his defamation lawsuit against the Malaysian Bar and three others relating to his conduct as deputy public prosecutor in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II appeal.

This follows a decision today by the Federal Court three-member bench led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf in granting leave to Muhammad Shafee to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision.

In her decision, Justice Rohana said the court was of the view that question one has merits for further argument and the court allowed the leave to appeal application on question one.

Also presiding on the bench were Federal Court judges Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli.

A litigant must obtain leave in order to proceed with the appeal to the Federal Court.

In 2016, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed a defamation suit filed by Muhammad Shafee against the Malaysian Bar, former Attorney General Tommy Thomas, former Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong and former Court of Appeal judge Tan Sri VC George.

The Court of Appeal in 2018 rejected Muhammad Shafee’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s decision.

In today’s court proceedings, Muhammad Shafee, who appeared on his own behalf, sought leave on four legal questions but lawyers representing the respective respondents argued that the questions posed did not cross the threshold requirement of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 for leave to be granted.

Thomas was represented by lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, while George was represented by lawyer Porres Royan. Lambert Rasa-Ratnam and Andrew Chiew appeared for Leong and the Bar.

The question that was allowed is “Can members of the Bar, having moved by way of a motion pursuant to section 64 (6) of the Legal Profession Act 1976 to resolve at the AGM that the Bar Council lodge a complaint against the advocate and solicitor to the disciplinary board, simultaneously move for a resolution to inter alia condemn in the strongest terms the advocate and solicitor’s alleged breach of discipline at the AGM?

Muhammad Shafee filed the suit in March 2015, claiming that on Feb 28, 2015, Thomas, who was seconded by George, had published and submitted a motion for discussion by the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Malaysian Bar on March 14, 2015.

The motion pertains to Muhammad Shafee’s conduct as the deputy public prosecutor in Anwar’s sodomy appeal in the Federal Court claiming that he (Muhammad Shafee) had violated the legal profession’s rules which prohibit lawyers from publicising themselves.

The motion also alleged Muhammad Shafee of participating in nationwide roadshows with the purpose of insulting a convicted prisoner and for bringing attention to his role in Anwar’s conviction.

On Feb 10, 2015, the Federal Court affirmed Anwar’s conviction of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and sentenced him to five years in jail.

Anwar, however, was given full pardon by the King on May 16, 2018.

In his statement of claim, Muhammad Shafee sought, among other things, a declaration that the motion was mala fide because the purpose of the proposal was simply to embarrass him and that the AGM was not a proper forum to hear the motion. ― Bernama

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