PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today reversed the findings of a High Court that actress Zahida Mohamed Rafik had defamed her ex-driver who allegedly took RM200,000.
A three-woman bench led by Lim Yee Lan also allowed a counter claim by Zahida that Noor Azman Azemi return the money to her.
Zahida, who was represented by Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, was also awarded further costs of RM50,000.
Justice Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, who delivered the judgment of the court, said Zahida could not have defamed Noor Azman by merely reading out the contents of a police report made against the ex-driver.
“The report is a defence of absolute privilege,” Hasnah said.
The other judge on the bench that delivered the unanimous ruling was Badariah Sahamid.
On Feb 26, 2015, High Court Judge Hue Siew Kheng ordered Zahida to pay Noor Azman RM150,000 in damages for defamation and RM40,000 in costs.
Hue said the former driver had proved all the ingredients of defamation on the balance of probability.
She also dismissed Zahida’s counter claim for the return of the RM200,000.
Noor Azman had filed the suit against Zahida in 2013 for defaming him in a report published in Harian Metro on March 3, 2012, over the loss of RM200,000.
In the Harian Metro article titled “Zahida Rafik Terkedu”, Zahida, 42, said she had lost the money after asking Azman to deposit it into her bank account.
Noor Azman was charged in the Sessions Court in 2014 with misappropriating RM200,000.
However, the prosecution has given him a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
Latheefa Koya who appeared for Noor Azman, said she obtained instruction from her client to file a leave application in the Federal Court to appeal against today’s ruling.
“This ruling will set a dangerous precedent. A person could lodge a police report and read the contents for publication. The report could then be absolute defence from being sued for defamation,” she said.