Lee Kuan Yew v Tang Liang Hong and Another

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
Judgment Date12 November 1997
Docket NumberCivil Appeals Nos 63-64, 111-121
Date12 November 1997

[1997] SGCA 52

Court of Appeal

M Karthigesu JA


LP Thean JA


G P Selvam J

Civil Appeals Nos 63-64, 111-121 and 135 of 1997

Tang Liang Hong
Lee Kuan Yew and another and other appeals

Charles Anthony St John Gray QC and Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam (J B Jeyaretnam & Co) for the appellant

Tan Kok Quan SC, Marina Chin and Eddee Ng (Lee & Lee) for the respondents in Civil Appeals Nos 63, 64, 114 and 117 of 1997

Davinder Singh SC and Hri Kumar (Drew & Napier) for the respondent in Civil Appeals Nos 111, 118 and 119 of 1997

KShanmugam and Ashok Kumar (Allen & Gledhill) for the respondent in Civil Appeals Nos 112, 120 and 135 of 1997

Harry Elias SC and Michael Palmer (Harry Elias & Partners) for the respondents in Civil Appeals Nos 113 and 121 of 1997

Wong Meng Meng SC and Nish Shetty (Wong Partnership) for the respondent in Civil Appeal No 115 of 1997

Giam Chin Toon SC, Chiah Kok Khun and Tan Hwee Leng (Wee Swee Teow & Co) for the respondent in Civil Appeal No 116 of 1997.

Abdul Majeed v Yeo Chng Tay [1964] MLJ 75 (refd)

Arab Monetary Fund v Hashim The Times (4 May 1993); The Independent (30 April 1993) (refd)

Bainton v Rajski (1992) 29 NSWLR 539 (folld)

Barrister (Wasted Costs Order) (No 1 of 1991), In re A [1993] QB 293 (folld)

Broome v Cassell & Co Ltd [1972] AC 1027 (refd)

Carson v John Fairfax and Sons Ltd (1993) 178 CLR 44 (refd)

Chiam See Tong v Ling How Doong [1996] 3 SLR (R) 942; [1997] 1 SLR 648 (refd)

Choy Chee Keen Collin v Public Utilities Board [1996] 3 SLR (R) 812; [1997] 1 SLR 604 (refd)

City of Chicago v Tribune Co 139 NE 86 (1923) (distd)

Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers Ltd [1993] AC 534; [1993] 1 All ER 1011 (distd)

Dingle v Associated Newspapers Ltd [1964] AC 371; [1962] 2 All ER 737 (folld)

Gorman v Mudd Transcript No 1076 of 1992 (15 October 1992) (folld)

Heng Holdings SEA (Pte) Ltd v Tomongo Shipping Co Ltd [1997] 2 SLR (R) 669; [1997] 3 SLR 547 (refd)

Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin v Lee Kuan Yew [1979-1980] SLR (R) 255; [1978-1979] SLR 197 (folld)

Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin v Lee Kuan Yew [1992] 1 SLR (R) 791; [1992] 2 SLR 310 (folld)

John Fairfax & Sons Ltd v Carson (1991) 24 NSWLR 259 (refd)

John Fairfax & Sons Ltd v Kelly (1987) 8 NSWLR 131 (folld)

John Puddicombe Wilkins v John Patrick Kenelm Wilkins [1951] MLJ 80 (refd)

John v MGN Ltd [1997] QB 586; [1996] 2 All ER 35 (refd)

Jokai Tea Holdings Ltd, In re [1992] 1 WLR 1196; [1993] 1 All ER 630 (folld)

JRL, Re; ex parte CJL (1986) 161 CLR 342 (folld)

Lee Kuan Yew v Davies Derek Gwyn [1989] 2 SLR (R) 544; [1989] SLR 1063 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew v Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin [1990] 1 SLR (R) 709; [1990] SLR 688 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew v Quek Teow Chuan Suit No 231 of 1985 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew v Seow Khee Leng [1988] 2 SLR (R) 252; [1988] SLR 832 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew and Tang Liang Hong [1997] 1 SLR (R) 248; [1997] 2 SLR 819 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew v Vinocur John [1995] 3 SLR (R) 38; [1995] 3 SLR 477 (refd)

Lee Kuan Yew v Vinocur John [1996] 1 SLR (R) 840; [1996] 2 SLR 542 (not folld)

Lewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd [1964] AC 234; [1963] 2 All ER 151 (folld)

McCarey v Associated Newspapers Ltd (No 2) [1965] 2 QB 86; [1964] 3 All ER 947 (refd)

McWhirter v Manning The Times (30 October 1954) (folld)

Pearson Judith Rosemary v Chen Chien Wen Edwin [1991] 2 SLR (R) 260; [1991] SLR 212 (refd)

R v Gough [1993] AC 646; [1993] 2 All ER 724 (folld)

R v Liverpool City Justices, ex parte Topping [1983] 1 WLR 119; [1983] 1 All ER 490 (folld)

Rantzen v Mirror Group Newspapers (1986) Ltd [1994] QB 670; [1993] 4 All ER 975 (refd)

Ridehalgh v Horsefield [1994] Ch 205 (folld)

Rondel v Worsley [1969] 1 AC 191; [1967] 3 All ER 993 (refd)

Sutcliffe v Pressdram Ltd [1991] 1 QB 153; [1990] 1 All ER 269 (folld)

Tan Chee Kong v Lee Ee Liat [1949] MLJ 277 (folld)

Tolley v Morris [1979] 1 WLR 592; [1979] 2 All ER 561 (folld)

TSB Private Bank International SA v Chabra [1992] 1 WLR 231; [1992] 2 All ER 245 (refd)

Uren v John Fairfax & Sons Pty Ltd (1966) 117 CLR 118 (folld)

Vasoo v Chee Soon Juan Suit No 935 of 1993 (refd)

Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [1988] 1 SLR (R) 455; [1988] SLR 510 (folld)

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1992 Reprint) Art 12 (1)

Defamation Act (Cap 75, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 16, 19

Rules of Court1996, The O 57 r 3, O 59 r 8

Defamation Act 1952 (c 66) (UK) s 12

Rules of the Supreme Court 1965 (SI 1965 No 828) (UK) O 59 r 3 (2)

Civil Procedure–Pleadings–Striking out–Defences–Defendant not complying with peremptory order–Contumelious conduct justifying striking out–Constitutional Law–Natural justice–Bias–Apparent bias–Judge hearing defamation action had close professional connections with plaintiff–Applicant complied with orders made but subsequently applied for recusal–Judge dismissed application to recuse with strong words–Whether judge biased and should recuse himself–Time of allegation of bias material–Damages–Aggravation–Tort–Defamation–Principles applicable when more than one award made to plaintiff given common aggravating factors–Whether non-compliance with interlocutory orders justified enhancement of damages when alternative remedies available–Whether defendant's contempt of court orders justified enhancement of damages–Damages–Assessment–Tort–Defamation–Correct approach to assessment of damages–Principle of vindication–Whether chilling effect on political speech factor to be considered–Damages–Quantum–Tort–Defamation–Precedent cases–Precedent figure applied result of negotiations between parties and consent agreement–Whether correct for such to be applied as precedent–Totality principle–Principles applicable when two or more defamatory statements made of same person–Whether reference to be had to personal injury awards–Legal Profession–Duties–Client–Wasted costs–Client instructed advocate to pursue unmeritorious application–Whether advocate liable to client for wasted costs–Court–Wasted costs–Client instructed advocate to pursue unmeritorious application–Advocate under duty to court to be conscientiously satisfied that there was material to proceed with application–Advocate concluded erroneously in circumstances such material existed–Whether advocate liable to show cause in wasted costs order–Tort–Defamation–Publication–Republication–Politician made police report against political opponents–Media obtained copy of report and published it–Whether republication natural and foreseeable consequence of making police report–Whether politician liable for republication–Politician gave interview to newspaper subsequently republished by other media–Politician denying liability for republication–Whether liability for republication to be ascertained only at trial

This was a set of appeals arising from a series of defamation actions instituted by the 11 respondents, members of the ruling political party, against the appellant, who was a member of an opposition party and also a senior advocate and solicitor, for defamatory remarks made in a Chinese language magazine, in an interview with The Straits Times, and at an election rally.

In The Straits Times interview, the appellant had, in response to the reported assurance of the Prime Minister (one of the respondents) that he would not be arrested for defamatory remarks made at the election rally, said, “Do you think I should believe them?” This was reproduced in various other media. Prior to that, he had lodged two police reports against the respondents alleging that they had defamed him in his political standing. The media then obtained and published the reports.

Shortly after the commencement of the suits, the respondents successfully joined the appellant's wife as the second defendant in the actions on the basis that the appellant's assets were held by her. They also applied for a worldwide Mareva injunction restraining the appellant and his wife from disposing of their assets in and outside Singapore, and for the appointment of a receiver over the couple's assets. Both were granted, with the receivership order being in the nature of a peremptory order to effect that failure to comply entitled the plaintiffs to be at liberty to apply for the defence to be struck out.

The appellant initially applied for extension of time to comply with these orders, but subsequently filed an application to disqualify the first instance judge and to set aside the Mareva injunction and the receivership order (“the disputed orders”) on the ground of apparent (but not actual) bias. The first instance judge was alleged to have a close professional relationship with the first respondent, a very senior member of the ruling political party; the first instance judge's “vituperative” comments against the appellant in dismissing his application were further relied on to establish apparent bias. The application was heard by the first instance judge in chambers, who in response to the turn of events transferred hearing to open court. It was dismissed with costs on an indemnity basis. The first instance judge further ordered the appellant's counsel to show cause why he should not be made personally liable to pay the costs of the unsuccessful application.

The appellant's defences in the defamation suits were struck out by the first instance judge and another High Court judge in two separate proceedings, the first for disclosing no reasonable defence to the claim in question and the second for want of compliance with the receivership order. In the second, neither the appellant nor his counsel had provided the court with an explanation for non-compliance with the order.

Subsequently, all 13 actions went before yet another High Court judge for assessment of damages, who awarded damages in favour of each of the plaintiffs (reported in Lee Kuan Yew v Tang Liang Hong [1997] 2 SLR (R) 81) to a total of $8.075m. The highest individual awards...

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