KUALA LUMPUR: The government and a special task force which it set up to conduct a probe into a book written by former attorney-general (AG) Tommy Thomas are asking the High Court to annul a lawsuit brought by him naming them as defendants.
They say the suit is scandalous, frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court’s process.
Alternatively, the defendants want the court to use its inherent power to strike out the suit to prevent an injustice.
In court papers filed last week and sighted by FMT, the defendants had also asked the court to suspend the hearing of Thomas’ suit pending the disposal of the striking out application.
Director-general of legal affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department, Shukor Mahmood, who affirmed an affidavit to support the application, said the task force was set up to conduct a preliminary study into the contents of the book before any action was taken.
Shukor further said he was advised that the government was within its rights to do so as the book contained matters of “public concern”, including allegations of judicial interference by the executive, selective prosecution and potential breaches of secrecy.
He said that although then prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob subsequently called for the matter to be probed by the appropriate authorities, no action has been taken thus far, either on the recommendations in the report or on Thomas himself.
Shukor also said Thomas’ suit was bad as it ought to have been commenced by way of a writ and not an originating summons.
The application is fixed for case management before Justice Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh on Jan 13.
Thomas, who filed the suit on Oct 27, said the publication of the task force’s report on his memoir entitled “My Story: Justice In The Wilderness” was a breach of law and his constitutional rights.
He named task force chairman JC Fong and its members – Hashim Paijan, Junaidah Kamarruddin, BS Jagjit Singh, Shaharudin Ali, K Balaguru, Farah Adura Hamidi and Najib Surip – as defendants.
He is seeking a declaration that the task force is an unlawful body and has no legal authority to perform the functions assigned to it by the government.
Thomas also wants a declaration that the purported report, titled “Laporan Pasukan Petugas Khas – Siasatan Ke Atas Dakwaan-Dakwaan Dalam Buku Bertajuk My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, produced by the task force is an illegal document and not authorised by law.
In the originating summons, Thomas contends that the publication of the report violates Sections 499 and 500 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
He wants a declaration that the government’s publication of the report violates his right to reputation which, he says, is protected by Articles 5(1) and 13(1) of the Federal Constitution.
Thomas is asking for compensation from all the defendants if the court finds that his constitutional rights have been breached.
He also wants aggravated and exemplary damages from the task force members to be paid by each of them personally.
The task force was established by Ismail’s Cabinet on Oct 8 last year to undertake a preliminary study of disclosures made by Thomas in his book, which was published in January last year.
On Dec 22, the Cabinet approved the task force’s terms of reference, which involved investigating allegations about the judiciary, exposure of government secrets, abuse of power, professional negligence and seditious statements.
The task force’s report was tabled before the Cabinet in September this year and made public on Oct 21.