KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has said that an award of RM2 million in damages to an e-commerce firm is to serve as a deterrent against individuals making unfounded remarks in the future.
However, the award made against Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng was “not to stifle freedom of speech and expression”, said Justice Akhtar Tahir in his grounds of judgment issued on Tuesday.
“(It was meant) as a discouragement for any person making uncalled for and unverified statements, especially in the era of the wide use of social media,” he said.
Last month, the court ordered Lim to pay a total of RM2 million in damages to businesswoman Jessy Lai and her company, MonSpace (M) Sdn Bhd, after holding him liable for defamation.
Akhtar said a deterrent was needed as the courts were inundated with defamation cases involving various members of society.
“‘See you in court’ seems to have become a fashionable statement rather than being something to be fearful about,” he added.
In his ruling, Akhtar said he found Lim’s actions akin to those of a “vigilante”, determined to force the authorities to act against Lai and her companies at any cost.
Referring to the lodging of police reports in 2017 by a group of Chinese nationals claiming they were cheated by Lai and MonSpace, the judge noted that neither Lai nor MonSpace were charged for cheating or carrying out any Ponzi scheme.
“The defendant (Lim) should have stopped there and allowed the authorities to investigate instead of pressuring the authorities to take action against the plaintiffs.
“The court is sure that the 19 Chinese nationals who were intelligent enough to invest with the plaintiffs could have taken action against her without the help of the defendant,” said Akhtar.
Lim is appealing the High Court’s decision and has applied to stay the execution of the RM2 million judgment.
The stay application is fixed for hearing on May 22.