PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has directed the George Town High Court to rectify its order in the graft case involving Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon.
The order is in connection with Section 62 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.
Court of Appeal judge Justice Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, who chaired a three-man panel, said the court official would write to the George Town High Court to rectify the order, which had imposed a 14-day period for the accused to file their statements of defence.
A stay order had been obtained subsequently by the accused.
The panel, which included Justice Idrus Harun and Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, also extended bail for both accused pending disposal of the case.
When queried by Justice Umi Kalthum on Thursday, Lim's lead counsel Gobind Singh Deo said the order has to be rectified as it did not reflect the directive for his client to file a statement of defence within 14 days before the commencement of the trial.
"We are asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the order or vary it. Therefore, the order of the (George Town) High Court ought to reflect this," said Gobind.
Besides that, Gobind said it would be important as Section 62 of the MACC Act does not impose any time limit for the delivery of the statement of defence on the part of an accused person.
Section 62 requires the defence statement and documents, which would be tendered as part of evidence, to be delivered to the prosecution before the start of trial.
"Normally, the order will be prepared by the registrar. I don't think we can amend, it is for the judge of the High Court," Gobind said.
Phang's lead counsel Datuk V. Sithambaram also adopted Gobind's stand.
DPP Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, who is also MACC's director, said he had no objection for the court to adjourn the matter to rectify the consequential order imposed by the High Court judge for the filing of the statement of defence by both accused.
Justice Umi Kalthum interjected that "It is not an option. The order of the court must be reflected in it."
After case management later, Gobind and Sithambaram said the Court of Appeal would hear their clients' appeals on July 19 against the dismissal of their applications on Section 62 of the MACC Act.
Lim and Phang are appealing against the decision of the High Court on March 7 which declared Section 62 of the MACC Act 2009 valid and not in violation of the Federal Constitution.
High Court judge Justice Hadhariah Syed Ismail held that Section 62 does not impede the accused's rights to a fair trial and that the burden still lies on the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
Justice Hadhariah had ordered Lim and Phang to file their defence statements within two weeks.
On June 30, 2016, Lim had claimed trial at the George Town High Court to two charges of corrupt practices.
He was allowed bail of RM1mil pending disposal of the case.
Lim, 56, had claimed trial to using his position as a public servant to obtain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert two lots of agricultural land in the south-west district for residential purposes during a state planning committee meeting on July 18, 2014.
The offence under Section 23 of the MACC Act carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of at least five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
He faces another charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code for using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing his bungalow in Pinhorn Road from Phang at RM2.8mil, below the market value of RM4.27mil, on July 28, 2015.
The offence is punishable by a maximum of two years in jail or a fine, or both.
Phang, who is charged with abetment, faces up to two years in jail or a fine, or both.Both the accused have pleaded not guilty. Their cases, which will be jointly heard, are now set for case management in Penang on July 26, said Gobind.