Penang rep’s defamation suit struck out

Dr-T-Jayabalan--1

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang lawmaker’s defamation suit against the New Straits Times daily, its journalist and a civil servant over an article published last year was struck out by the Sessions Court here today.

Judge Ibrahim Osman allowed the application to strike out the case brought by Batu Uban Assemblyman Dr T Jayabalan against The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd (NSTP), its former journalist Predeep Nambiar and civil servant T Saroja Devi.

Ibrahim delivered the decision in chambers.

According to Saroja’s counsel S Raveentharan, Ibrahim had found the article to have not contained any defamatory words as alleged and the story was based on court proceedings.

“The learned judge had also said Saroja’s civil suit against Jayabalan had no effect on the outcome of the case and his decision was made without taking into account the decision by the magistrate’s court recently,” Raveentharan told reporters today.

(Saroja had won the civil suit against Jayabalan. See related story below.)

Raveentharan said Ibrahim then ordered Jayabalan to pay the defendants RM1,500 each in costs.

Jayabalan was represented by C V Prabhakaran, while NSTP and Nambiar were represented by Harjinder Kaur.

Jayabalan had sued NSTP, Nambiar and Saroja for defamation after an article in the New Straits Times dated April 6, 2015, titled “Penang rep sued for allegedly taking woman’s Mercedes”, was published following a press conference by Saroja the day before.

In the press conference, Saroja announced that she had filed a civil suit against Jayabalan at the magistrate’s court. She claimed Jayabalan’s assistants had taken her Mercedes-Benz car without permission.

Jayabalan claimed NSTP and Nambiar’s use of the headline “Penang rep sued for allegedly taking woman’s Mercedes” made Jayabalan look like a person of low morals; played out or cheated a woman; a man of low character; a cheat and one who preys on women; and a confidence trickster.

Jayabalan claimed Saroja’s claim that her Mercedes was taken away without permission was also not true and defamatory.

He claimed her statement, made at the press conference, portrayed him as a dishonest and irresponsible man; a man of no character; a bully and unreliable; a person not fit to hold the portfolio of a state assemblyman.

NSTP, Nambiar, and Saroja later applied to strike out the case.

In their defence, NSTP and Nambiar said the article was written based on a summons writ and other legal notices given to them by Saroja in a press conference.

“The summons writ and statement of claim filed by Saroja against Jayabalan forms the main source of information.

“The matter raises serious issues of public interest, having regard to Jayabalan’s capacity as a state assemblyman.

“Therefore, NSTP and Nambiar are privileged in reporting the information contained in the said article and any action in respect of the said article is bound to fail premised on this point,” NSTP and Nambiar said in their affidavits in support of striking out the case.

Related story:

Assemblyman loses suit over unauthorised use of car