Puncak Niaga suit against Selangor govt on hold pending ruling on public officers

PUTRAJAYA: Former water concessionaire Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd (Puncak Niaga) must now wait for a Federal Court ruling on whether it can reinstate a RM14 billion suit against two former Selangor menteris besar and the state government.

This follows the Court of Appeal’s decision today to adjourn the company’s appeal pending the ruling by the apex court on whether heads of state and federal governments are public officers.

Judge Badariah Shahamid, who led a three-member bench, said the apex court ruling could have a bearing on the appeal, as lower courts are bound to follow legal pronouncements of the Federal Court.

Badariah also fixed case management on April 30.

Lawyer Gopal Sreenevasan, who appeared for Puncak Niaga, submitted earlier that he was ready to proceed, saying his client’s case and the matter before the Federal Court are two different issues.

“The courts have decided that the Federal Constitution excludes the prime minister and Cabinet members as public officers. It is the Selangor constitution that will determine the status of the ex-menteris besar,” he said.

However, the lawyers appearing for the state government and former menteris besar Khalid Ibrahim and Mohamed Azmin Ali said they would prefer to wait for the Federal Court ruling.

Last year, two Courts of Appeal held that Section 3 of the Interpretation Acts 1948 and 1967 and Articles 132 (1), 132 (3), and 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution classify the prime minister as only “a member of the administration”.

This was after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Damansara MP Tony Pua filed suits against former prime minister Najib Razak ahead of the May 9 polls for allegedly abusing his position to cover up the 1MDB fiasco.

The courts held that no action for the tort of misfeasance in public office was sustainable as Najib was not a public officer like a civil servant.

The Federal Court fixed April 23 to hear the appeals by Mahathir and Pua.

In the present appeal, the Shah Alam High Court struck out Puncak Alam’s suit for the tort of misfeasance in public office last year, following applications by Khalid and the state government.

Puncak Niaga claimed, among others, that Khalid and Azmin had abused their power by threatening to invoke the Water Services Industry Act 2006 to take over the water services industry in Selangor.