Raja Petra decision on Feb 13

(NST) – Political commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin will have to wait until next month to know the status of the defamation charges against him.

High Court Judicial Commissioner Zainal Azman Ab Aziz will deliver his decision on Feb 13. He fixed the date yesterday after hearing submissions.

Raja Petra, 59, is facing three counts of criminal defamation over a statutory declaration he made about the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu.

He is alleged to have defamed the deputy prime minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Lt-Col Norhayati Hassan and her husband, Lt-Col Abdul Aziz Buyong, by making a libellous statement in the declaration, which he affirmed on June 18, when he knew that it would tarnish their names.

He was alleged to have committed the offences at High Court Civil 5 in the Jalan Duta court complex at 10.25am on June 18 last year.

His counsel Manjeet Singh Dhillon yesterday submitted that the prosecution's application to transfer the case from the magistrate's court to the Sessions Court had exposed Raja Petra to a potentially heavier punishment.

"The charges faced by Raja Petra carry a maximum two years' jail, or fine, or both. A magistrate has the jurisdiction to pass sentences up to five years' jail, a fine of up to RM10,000 or whipping up to 12 strokes.

"In contrast, a Sessions Court judge can pass any sentence other than the death sentence.

"Also, there is no cap on the maximum fine that the judge can impose."

Manjeet said the transfer order granted by the magistrate's court was unconstitutional as it had breached the equality provision under the Federal Constitution.

"There is clear discrimination whereby Raja Petra is being singled out for harsher punishment."