KUALA LUMPUR: Millionaire Tan Sri Nathan Elumalay has won a defamation suit against a company director over a dispute related to their business dealings and alleged corruption.
High Court judge Dr John Lee Kien How @ Mohd Johan Lee said the founder of Eversendai Group of Companies has established his case on the balance of probabilities.
The court then ordered M. Natarajen, the managing director of Linus Engineering Sdn Bhd, to pay RM200,000 in global damages to the plaintiff (Nathan).
The plaintiff argued that the impugned posting created and posted to a WhatsApp group by the defendant was capable of being treated as defamatory against him.
The tycoon is seeking damages, a written public apology, and an injunction prohibiting the defendant from further authoring or publishing the statement.
In his judgment, Johan ruled that the plaintiff proved that the impugned posting was defamatory against him.
"The impugned posting consists of WhatsApp messages between the plaintiff and the defendant.
"It is my finding that the impugned posting, with or without the additional wordings, is defamatory against the plaintiff.
"Even if this court were to expunge the additional wordings from the impugned posting, the fact remains that by reading the exchange messages of the parties, there are defamatory words, meaning, and phrases in them," he said.
He said the impugned posting would expose the plaintiff to hatred and ridicule and lower his reputation in the estimation of right-thinking society.
"Looking at the impugned posting, it is clear that the defendant's use of words in his messages was defamatory.
"In this message, the defendant queried whether the plaintiff had bribed someone concerning the civil suit.
"This is a very serious and grave suggestion made by the defendant," he said, adding that the defendant failed to provide any concrete evidence to support his defence of justification.
Johan further said the defendant has failed to establish anything to prove the serious allegation of bribes in this case.
"His (defendant) failure to either testify or to render any evidence on the suggestion of a bribe by the plaintiff meant there was no such evidence of any corrupt practice by the latter."
He said such a bare and irresponsible allegation could not be accepted as a fair comment without proof; otherwise, this would open the floodgate of any shameless attack on the judicial system.
"How could a veiled remark about the plaintiff bribing the court staff be accepted under the fair comment defence without any proof evidencing the same?
"I further find that the impugned posting does not even remotely confer any matter of public interest," he added.
Unsatisfied with the court's ruling, the defendant filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
His case will be heard on Dec 12.
Counsel Rueben Mathiavaranam appeared for the plaintiff, while lawyer M. Manoharan represented the defendant.