Former judge NH Chan dies at 81

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PETALING JAYA: Former Appeal Court judge Chan Nyarn Hoi, better known as NH Chan, has died. He was 81.

Chan first rose to fame as a lawyer defending a defamation suit filed by a minister.

Chan is survived by his widow, Ann Chan Foong Keen, and their two children.

His neighbour, associate professor Dr N Muniandy said Chan suffered a heart attack at home in Taman Sunrise in Ipoh yesterday evening.

“His grandson found him unconscious on a couch in the house. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead there,” he told FMT.

Born in Ipoh on March 27, 1935, Chan was admitted to the Bar in 1961. He was a lawyer for almost two decades before becoming a High Court judge and moving to Kuala Lumpur.

He was among the first batch of High Court judges to be elevated to the Court of Appeal, set up in 1994 to act as an intermediate court between the High Court and the apex court.

He wrote two books, “Judging the Judges” and “How to Judge the Judges”.

Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram described Chan as a man of fearless integrity.

“He did not hesitate to say something was wrong when he felt it was wrong,” he said.

Sri Ram said Chan was kind to him and bore him no grudge when he superseded him in the Court of Appeal.

The lawyer was elevated straight to the Court of Appeal and was third in seniority.

Sri Ram said Chan was a brilliant lawyer who shot to fame in the defamation case filed by then education minister Rahman Talib against D R Seenivasagam and several others in 1965.

“The court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the defendants had successfully raised the defence of justification,” he said.

Rahman then resigned his post.

Sri Ram said as a High Court judge, Chan was known to call up files from the lower court by way of revision to immediately correct injustices.

Chan is also remembered for quoting the famous line “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in the controversial Ayer Molek case heard in the Kuala Lumpur Civil High Court, which was located in Wisma Denmark.

He was also well known as a fierce critic of the judiciary when the Perak constitutional crisis erupted in 2009 following the collapse of the then Pakatan Rakyat government.

The wake will be held at 20, Persiaran Bintang, Sunrise Garden, Ipoh. Funeral services will be held at 10am, Dec 26.