PUTRAJAYA: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli today won his appeal against the findings of the High Court three years ago which ordered him to pay RM200,000 in damages to National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp) executive chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail and his company for defaming them.
A three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Hamid Sultan Abu Backer said there was merit to Rafizi’s appeal.
“The appeal has merit, and we are allowing it with costs,” said Hamid, who sat with Hanipah Farikullah and Kamaludin Md Said.
The bench earlier refused to allow the case to be heard later in the day so that lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, representing NFCorp and Salleh, could be present.
“This matter has been adjourned at least five times, and damages to the first respondent (Salleh) are only RM150,000,” Hamid said.
Lawyer Sarah Abishegam then conducted the case for Salleh and NFCorp.
Neither Salleh nor Rafizi were present in court today.
Lawyer Ranjit Singh, who represented Rafizi, said his client was only relying on the defence of fair comment.
“The appellant was an honest and fair-minded person when he made the alleged defamatory statement,” he said, adding that the High Court had also concluded that Rafizi’s conduct was not malicious.
He said trial judge Azizul Azmi Adnan had also held that Rafizi acted in public interests.
On Oct 31, 2016, Azizul had ordered Rafizi, who was then Pandan MP, to pay damages of RM150,000 to Salleh and RM50,000 to his company.
The court also ordered Rafizi to pay costs of RM100,000.
The bench today ordered Salleh and NFCorp to refund the RM300,000 in damages and costs within 30 days, failing which 5% interest per annum would be imposed until the payment is settled.
Hamid also awarded RM100,000 in costs before the High Court and another RM10,000 in the Court of Appeal.
In the suit filed on June 3, 2013, Salleh and NFCorp claimed Rafizi had made a defamatory statement in a media conference at the PKR office a year earlier regarding the purchase of KL Eco City properties.