Lingam video clip: Federal Court grants RCI leave to appeal

(Bernama) — The Federal Court today granted the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) tasked with hearing the VK Lingam video tape controversy, leave to challenge the Appeal’s Court decision in allowing two retired judges and VK Lingam contest the findings of the commission at the courts.

The controversial video recording allegedly touched on the appointment of judges.

Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sheriff leading a three-man panel of the Federal Court unanimously ruled that the question of law posed by the commission for determination of the Federal Court was of a novel one and of public interest.

He said the commission had met the requirements of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act and granted leave to the commission to appeal on one question of law, that is on whether its (commission) findings under Section 3 of the Commission of Enquiry Act 1950 was reviewable by way of judicial review.

The other members of the panel were Federal Court judges Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin and Datuk Abdull Hamid Embong.

On Aug 24 last year, the appellate court, in a 2-1 majority decision allowed the appeal brought by Lingam and former Chief Justices Tun Eusoff Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim to set aside the High Court’s refusal to grant leave for their applications for judicial review to quash the commission’s findings.

Following the appellate court’s decision, the matter had been remitted back to the Kuala Lumpur High Court to proceed to hear the merits of the trio’s judicial review application.

In their report, the five-member panel of the RCI had concluded that the video clip was authentic, and that Lingam was the person in conversation with Ahmad Fairuz over the appointment of judges. The commission had also recommended that appropriate action be taken against six individuals namely Lingam, Eusoff, Fairuz, tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, businessman and former minister in the prime minister’s department Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor for misconduct.

It also found that there was prima facie evidence to investigate the six men for offences under the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, the Penal Code and the Legal Profession Act.

Earlier, senior federal counsel Datin Azizah Nawawi representing the commission, submitted in the proceedings at the Federal Court that the question of law posed was one of general principle which had not been decided previously by the apex court.

Lingam, who represented himself, submitted that the decision of the appellate court to grant them leave to intitate a judicial review, was an interlocutory decision and made in its (appellate court) exercise of its discretion.

“The Court of Appeal had merely applied the settled law on the grant of leave as laid down by our Supreme Court and the Federal Court,” said Lingam, adding that the merits of the matter should proceed to be heard by the High Court.

Counsel Mahinder Singh Dulku who appeared for Ahmad Fairuz urged the court to dismiss the leave application because he said the question posed was not a jurisdictional question but was a question of facts which had to be determined at the judicial review hearing.