KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChoo Han Teck JC
Judgment Date16 July 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 150
Citation[2002] SGHC 150
Subject MatterWhether to grant application,Whether rule applicable in Singapore,O 24 r 6 Rules of Court,Disclosure of documents,Nature of rule,Libel suit,Application for pre-trial discovery of interview notes and working drafts of newspaper article,Whether different considerations applicable in pre-trial discovery,'Newspaper rule',Civil Procedure
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 332 of 2002
Plaintiff CounselPrakash Mulani and Sean Say (J Koh & Co)
Date16 July 2002
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselHri Kumar and Vinod Sabnani (Drew & Napier LLC)

Judgment Cur Adv Vult

GROUNDS OF DECISION

Background To The Application

1. KLW Holdings Ltd ("KLW") owns a subsidiary company known as Barang Barang Pte Ltd ("Barang Barang"). This subsidiary was, at all material times, in the business of retailing home furnishing products. Sometime about 2000 KLW had bought over Barang Barang from its founding partners, Mr. Sonny Boey and Mr. Alvin Chua. The two former partners continued their ties with the company by signing service contracts with it, but these agreements were terminated (with ensuing litigation between the two partners and Barang Barang). Payments due from KLW to the two partners in respect of the purchase of Barang Barang were terminated by KLW. There were allegations by KLW that the two former partners were in breach of the purchase agreement because they had set up business in competition with Barang Barang. Arising from these events, the Business Times, a newspaper owned by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, published a story on 22 February 2002. KLW is unhappy over two aspects of the published story, which, it says, created the impression that KLW defaulted in its payments to Mr. Boey and Mr. Chua from the outset. Mr. Mulani, counsel for KLW submitted that the payments were stopped because of the alleged breach of agreement by the two former partners. Secondly, KLW alleges that the Business Times story suggested that KLW defaulted because it was in financial difficulties. Singapore Press Holdings denies that the Business Times story is in any way libelous.

2. KLW applied by way of this Originating Summons for pre-trial discovery of documents against Singapore Press Holdings. The documents required were described in the applications as:

"a. notes of interview, in documentary or mechanical form, with the maker of the statements 'there was a clause that said the two men had to be paid for their stakes first. But since the takeover, KLW has been defaulting on the payment,' appearing in the article, and

b. working drafts of the article made in the course of publishing the said article".

The Broad Issues

3. There was no disguise that the purpose of the discovery application was to ascertain the source from which the Business Times obtained its information. It is obvious that KLW intends to take whatever action that it may be advised against the source. The assistant registrar dismissed the application and KLW appealed against that decision before me. Mr. Hri Kumar submitted on behalf of Singapore Press Holdings that KLW is not entitled to the discovery sought because it is, in substance, an application for an order that Business Times discloses its source of information. Mr. Kumar relies on the "newspaper rule" developed by the common law courts in England that protects the identity of a newspaper's source. Secondly, Mr. Kumar says, that even if we do not recognise such protection in Singapore, the court has a discretion in deciding whether such discover may be ordered. Thirdly, he submitted, even if discovery of the identity of the source is permitted, the documents required by KLW are irrelevant and that the information sought by KLW ought to have been asked for by way of interrogatory rather than a discovery of the specified documents.

4. KLW's application was made under O 24 r 5, which provides as follows:

"1. The Defendants shall within 14 days of the order to be made hereon, give discovery of the following documents pertaining to the article entitled "KLW in tussle with Barang Barang founder" appearing in The Business Times on Friday, 22 February 2002, viz.: -

a. notes of interview, in documentary or mechanical form, with the maker of the statements "There was a clause that said the two men had to be paid for their stakes first. But since the takeover, KLW has been defaulting on the payment," appearing in the said article, and

b. working drafts of the article made in the course of publishing the said article.

2. The said discovery shall be made by way of a list of documents, together with an affidavit verifying the said list, filed and served upon the Plaintiffs within 14 days of the order made hereon, stating whether the listed documents are or at any time have been in the Defendants’ possession, custody or power and, if not now in their possession, custody or power, when they parted with the same and what has become of them."

The "Newspaper Rule"

5. Counsel have conveniently referred to Mr. Kumar's mainline objection as the "newspaper rule". It appears from the reported authorities that the origin of this "rule" is vague. The rule has sometimes being conveniently regarded merely as a rule of practice (as per Lord Denning in Att. Gen v...

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9 cases
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    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 17 May 2007
    ...& Gledhill) for the defendants Daryl Mok (Drew & Napier LLC) for non-party. KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd [2002] 2 SLR (R) 477; [2002] 4 SLR 417 (folld) State Trading Corporation of India Ltd v M Golodetz Ltd [1989] 2 Lloyd's Rep 277 (refd) Civil Procedure–Interrog......
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    ...had already got a good cause of action before they saw the documents. 59 The second case was KLW Holdings v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd [2002] 4 SLR 417 (“SPH”). In that case, the application for pre-action discovery was made against the owners of a newspaper which had published a story th......
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    ...575 (refd) Haywood Management Ltd v Eagle Aero Technology Pte Ltd [2014] 4 SLR 478 (folld) KLW Holdings v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd [2002] 2 SLR(R) 477; [2002] 4 SLR 417 (distd) Kuah Kok Kim v Ernst & Young [1996] 3 SLR(R) 485; [1997] 1 SLR 169 (folld) Ng Koo Kay Benedict v Zim Integ......
  • World Sport Group Pte Ltd v Dorsey James Michael
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    • 10 April 2013
    ...newspaper in a libel action to disclose before trial the source of its information. In KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd [2002] 2 SLR (R) 477, it was held that there was no newspaper rule in Singapore. This decision was followed by Tullett Prebon (Singapore) Ltd v Spring Mark ......
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2 books & journal articles
  • PRE-COMMENCEMENT DISCOVERY AND THE ODEX LITIGATION: COPYRIGHT VERSUS CONFIDENTIALITY OR IS IT PRIVACY?
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2008, December 2008
    • 1 December 2008
    ...there have been a number of Singapore cases involving Norwich Pharmacal relief including: KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd[2002] 4 SLR 417 (decision of Choo Han Teck JC as he then was); Re E[2003] SGDC 84 (decision of District Judge Lim); UMCI Ltd v Tokio Marine & Fire Insura......
  • Civil Procedure
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...was relevant to the case. As such, the court ordered the discovery of the drafts. 6.40 In KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd[2002] 4 SLR 417, the plaintiffs sought pre-action discovery against the Business Times to obtain notes of interviews carried out in respect of an article......

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