Apex court wants to review Court of Appeal’s grounds of judgment before considering whether to grant leave to appeal.
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has adjourned to March 9 the Attorney-General (AG) and the government’s application for leave to appeal in a bid to strike out a rights group’s lawsuits against the Singapore and Malaysian governments.
The adjournment is to allow the apex court to secure the grounds of judgment issued by the Court of Appeal.
“After reading the submissions for the leave application, we feel the (grounds of) judgment of the Court of Appeal is needed,” said Justice Hasnah Hashim who led a three-member bench during a hearing conducted virtually.
Stay up-to-date by following FMT's Telegram channelFMT
She said the Federal Court registry will write to the Court of Appeal for the grounds of judgment to be sent up for the new hearing date.
Also on the panel were Justices Mary Lim and Rhodzariah Bujang.
Senior federal counsel Liew Horng Bin appeared for the AG and the government, while Gurdial Singh Nijar, Latheefa Koya, Abraham Au and Shahid Adli Kamaruddin represented Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).
On July 20 last year, the Court of Appeal allowed LFL’s appeal to reinstate an originating summons it had taken out against Singapore’s home affairs minister K Shanmugam.
This followed an earlier High Court order which annulled the suit on the application of the AG.
At the same Court of Appeal sitting, a three-member bench chaired by Justice Yaacob Sam also allowed LFL’s appeal to revive another suit filed against Putrajaya seeking to prevent it from assisting its Singapore counterpart in the matter.
The Court of Appeal ruling meant that the Kuala Lumpur High Court is required to hear both suits on the merits of the case.
The government has identified seven questions of law that it says justifies the Federal Court hearing the present appeals on their merits.
One issue is whether a Malaysian court can exercise jurisdiction to hear a matter in which sovereign immunity over a foreign governmental act is raised.
On Jan 24, 2020, LFL had brought its suit to challenge a “correction direction” issued by the Singapore government under Singapore’s controversial legislation, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).
The rights group said the direction was issued in respect of matters which LFL had published concerning the treatment of prisoners at Changi prison, who, they alleged, were being executed in a “brutal and unlawful” manner.
A 2020 statement issued by the Singapore government on its official portal claimed that LFL’s allegations contained “false statements of fact”.
Singapore’s home affairs ministry also called the allegation “untrue, baseless and preposterous”, adding that all judicial executions in the country were carried out in strict compliance with the law.
LFL’s suit seeks various reliefs, including a declaration by the court that neither Singapore’s home affairs minister nor anyone acting under his authority can take any action to enforce any provision of Pofma extraterritorially against it within Malaysia.
In its suit against the Malaysian government, LFL sought a declaration that it has the right to express its opinion in Malaysia under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution which governs the right to free speech.