Federal Court sets aside verdict from former judge

PUTRAJAYA: In a rare occasion, the Federal Court has set aside a judgment it delivered last year on a tenancy dispute, on grounds that the verdict came from a former judge.

“There is merit in the motion as the judgment is a nullity due to coram failure,” Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah said of the unanimous decision made yesterday.

A five-member bench allowed the application by Bellajade Sdn Bhd under Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995, which states a judgment can be nullified when it comes from a panel member who has left office.

Other judges in the bench yesterday included Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Rohana Yusof, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Nalini Pathmanathan.

Following the decision, an appeal will be reheard before a fresh bench on a date yet to be fixed.

In March last year, the Federal Court chaired by the then Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin heard a tenancy dispute appeal brought by CME Group Berhad against Bellajade.

Others in the bench were Zainun Ali, Zaharah Ibrahim, Azahar Mohamed and Balia Yusof Wahi. The bench reserved judgment. Zulkefli resigned in July last year.

Bellajade was represented by M Pathmanathan while K Kirubakaran represented CME Group. Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram appeared for businessman Lim Cheng Pow.

On Sept 25, Azahar read Zulkefli’s majority judgment while Zainun dissented.

The last time, the Federal Court allowed an applicant to set aside a verdict was in 2012 when the chairman of the three-man bench left his seat briefly while proceeding was in progress.

The Federal Court held the full bench of the three-member panel inexistent, and this was in breach of Section 74 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.