Maybank today lost all five defamation suits against the National Union of Bank Employees, at the Court of Appeal, which unanimously ruled that Section 22(1) of the Trade Unions Act 1959, accorded it absolute exemption of liability from the tort of libel.
The decision was made by a three-member bench led by Justice Lim Yee Lan, with Justice Varghese George Varughese and Justice Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.
Section 22 (1) under the title of liability of tort states: A suit against a registered trade union or against any members or officers thereof, on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade union, in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any court.
NUBE general secretary, J Solomon, in a statement today said the five defamation suits were brought by Maybank against NUBE and its officers due to the publication of a flyer and two articles on the union website.
The suits were filed separately against NUBE officers Mohd Faisal Hussin, Nur Rasidah Jamaludin, Sharifuddin Hassan and Sethupathy Thiaganaian at the High Courts in Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam.
The bank also filed another suit against Solomon in Kuala Lumpur.
Maybank won in their suits against Faisal, Nur Rasidah and Sharifuddin, and were awarded damages by the High Court of between RM30,000 to RM100,000. It lost in its cases against Sethupathy and Solomon.
However, those who lost their cases filed appeals, and the appeals were heard jointly today.
This resulted in the Court of Appeal ruling today that NUBE and its officers were conferred with absolute exemption of liability for libel.
“It also ruled that there is no ambiguity in the construction of Section 22(1) Trade Unions Act 1959, wherein a suit against a trade union and its officers in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any court,” Solomon said in the statement.
NUBE was represented by counsel Alex De Silva and Gajendran Balachandran, while M Patmanathan and S Rutheran acted for Maybank.