Appellate Court revives Dr Sim vs Chong case, quashes Shankar contempt of court order

Dr Sim (front row, third left) and Shankar (front row, fourth left) with their legal teams at Kuching Court Complex today (Mar 18, 2021).

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, Mar 18: The Court of Appeal has today unanimously reversed the Kuching High Court’s decision (Jan 12) in dismissing the defamation action by Dato Sri Sim Kui Hian against Chong Chieng Jen with RM30,000 costs.

The Court of Appeal also set aside the contempt order made against Dr Sim’s Counsel Shankar Ram Asnani and the order referring him to the Inquiry Committee.

In its grounds of decision delivered today, the Court of Appeal held that there were no basis in law for High Court Judicial Commissioner Alexander Siew to dismiss Dr Sim’s case with RM30,000 costs when the trial was still ahead then in March 2021.

The three-judge panel made up of Court of Appeal Judges Datuk Lau Bee Lan, Datuk Ravinthran N. Paramaguru and Dato Indera Mohd Sofian Tan Sri Abdul Razak held that the findings of the High Court Judicial Commissioner Alexander Siew How Wai were flawed.

Earlier on Jan 12, Siew dismissed the defamation case of Dr Sim against Chong with RM30,000 costs and found Dr Sim’s Counsel Shankar Ram to be in contempt of court.  Siew’s decisions were made based on Shankar’s one-month delay in submitting the bundle of documents which Siew deemed as an obstruction of justice as well as a compromise of the integrity of the trial.

This led Shankar filing for appeals for the matters and certificates of Urgency.  The Court of Appeal heard both cases on Feb 24 and 25, and fixed for judgment to be delivered today.

Following the Court of Appeal decision, the defamation suit which Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim filed against Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen will resume before another Judge of the High Court.

The Court of Appeal commented in its judgment that Shankar was denied natural justice as no notice was given of the contempt proceedings and the whole procedure adopted by the learned Judicial Commissioner breached Order 52 Rule 2A of Rules of Court, denied Shankar a right to a fair proceedings under Articles 5 and 8 of the Federal Constitution and were flawed.

The Court of Appeal also found that there were no materials to support the findings made by Siew that Shankar was guilty of obstruction of justice, had compromised the integrity of the trial and that his explanation was nonsensical and not believable.

Shankar and Dato Bong Ah Loi represented Dr Sim on Dr Sim versus Chong case where Chong was alleged to have made defamatory posts on Dr Sim with regards to the Sarawak Government food aid allocation during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

As for the contempt matter, Shankar represented himself and was assisted by Senior Counsel Dato Bong Ah Loi and Mr. Wong King Wei.

Chong was represented by Michael Kong, Chong Siew Chiang and Sim Kiat Leng. — DayakDaily