Court allows Shafee’s appeal against the Bar

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has allowed senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s appeal over his defamation suit against the Malaysian Bar and two others relating to his conduct as the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II case.

The two other respondents are former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and former Court of Appeal judge Tan Sri VC George.

A three-member bench comprising Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf and Federal Court judges Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli also set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision and directed the case to be reverted to the High Court for assessment of damages against the Malaysian Bar as the third respondent.

Justice Abdul Rahman, when reading the unanimous decision, said the court did not make the same order against Thomas and George, as the first and second respondents respectively, because they were not statutory bodies to be bound by Section 99(1) of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976.

Bernama reported Justice Abdul Rahman as saying that the appeal was only concerned with the question whether the respondents were liable in the tort of breach of statutory duty and not for the other causes of action, namely defamation and conspiracy to defame.

“Nor is this appeal concerned with the question whether the appellant (Muhammad Shafee) has or has not been guilty of misconduct.

“That is a matter for the Disciplinary Board to determine in the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against the appellant.

“Section 99(1) of the LPA requires that any complaint concerning the conduct of an advocate and solicitor must be in writing and must first be made or referred to the Disciplinary Board.

“In breach of this requirement of the law, Thomas and George moved the Malaysian Bar under Section 64(6) of the LPA for a resolution to condemn the appellant ‘in the strongest terms’ for breach of discipline,” he said in the decision which was delivered virtually via Zoom.

Justice Abdul Rahman said the Malaysian Bar had committed a far more serious breach of the law when it published the motion on its website and tabled it for resolution at its annual general meeting (AGM).

Justice Abdul Rahman further said the power to discipline advocates and solicitors was vested in the Disciplinary Board and this power was to be exercised by the board in accordance with the relevant rules.

At yesterday’s proceedings, lawyers Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Porres Royan and Lambert Rasa-Ratnam appeared for Thomas, George and the Bar, respectively, while Muhammad Shafee represented himself.

On Aug 19, 2020, the Federal Court granted leave to Muhammad Shafee to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision.

On May 26, 2016, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed a defamation suit filed by Muhammad Shafee against the respondents.

The Court of Appeal on Oct 11, 2018, rejected Muhammad Shafee’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s decision.

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

The motion pertains to Muhammad Shafee’s conduct as the DPP in Anwar’s sodomy appeal in the Federal Court.

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