Murugason v The Straits Times Press (1975) Ltd

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date21 Feb 1984
Neutral Citation[1984] SGHC 3
Citation[1984] SGHC 3
SubjectInnuendoes,Tort,Onus on plaintiff to prove special facts capable of being understood in secondary and defamatory sense by persons to whom special facts are known,Libel,Newspaper publication imputing conduct unethical and unbecoming an advocate and solicitor,Legal Profession,Claim for damages for publication in newspaper
Defendant CounselAP Godwin (Godwin & Co)
Plaintiff CounselJB Jeyaretnam (JB Jeyaretnam & Co)
Docket NumberSuit No 812 of 1981
Publication Date19 Sep 2003

The plaintiff in this case claims damages against the defendants for a libel contained in a report headed `Woman claims T Blangah election was rigged` and published by the defendants in the issue of The Straits Times newspaper of 22 January 1981.

The facts are these. The plaintiff is and was at all material times an advocate and solicitor practising under the style of Murugason & Co in Singapore. The defendants are the proprietors and publishers of The Straits Times , a newspaper with a wide circulation in Singapore and is one of two English language newspapers delivered in the morning in Singapore. In the 1980 General Election the Telok Blangah constituency was contested by Rohan bin Kamis of the People`s Action Party and by JB Jeraretnam of the Workers` Party. Rohan bin Kamis was elected. On 17 January 1981, an election petition (Election Petition No 1/81) was presented to the High Court on behalf of Mdm Chiew Kim Keat by Murugason & Co in which she stated that she was not satisfied with the election of Rohan bin Kamis on the grounds that there were certain irregularities at a polling centre and at the polling stations in her constituency Telok Blangah and prayed that it might be determined that Rohan bin Kamis was not duly elected or returned and that the election was void. On 22 January 1981, the defendants published in The Straits Times the following report:

Woman claims T Blangah election was rigged

A Telok Blangah voter has filed a petition in the High Court alleging that the election of Rohan Kamis last 23 December as PAP MP for that constituency was rigged.



This voter identifies herself as Mdm Chiew Kim Keat of Depot Road in the petition, which was filed by her lawyer, Mr R Murugason, on Saturday at noon. She paid in cash the $2,000 deposit as required by election law. She is asking the court to declare as void the election, in which Mr JB Jeyaretnam of the Workers` Party lost by 1,046 votes. She cites a number of grounds, one of which relates to an incident over the collection of ballot boxes at the Kampong Jagoh Primary School polling station.

In that incident, a bus despatched to collect the six ballot boxes from the school for a counting centre took off with only five of them on board, and only returned later for the remaining one.

`Substituted`

Mdm Chiew claims the bus came back only after 20 minutes and says she `has reason to believe` that during the time lapse, either the box left behind or one of the other five was substituted with another box containing ballot papers marked for Mr Rohan but not cast for him by voters. Alternatively, she claims in her petition, ballot papers marked for Mr Rohan were inserted into one or more boxes. She does not say who was responsible for the alleged rigging; nor does she name anyone as respondent to the petition.



Other grounds cited by her are:

THAT presiding officers at some booths marked ballot papers for some voters even when those voters were capable of doing this themselves.

THAT a voter on the register was `refused permission` to vote, and

THAT, one voter was allowed to vote twice. Mdm Chiew was said to be not at home when two Straits Times reporters and a photographer called at the Depot Road address listed in her petition last night at 10 o`clock. The people answering the door acknowledged that they were her relatives and declined to answer questions.



Own accord

When pressed, one of them a woman in her late 40s, told the Straits Times reporters to `use their heads` to decide if Mdm Chiew had acted on her own accord.



The best person to answer questions was either Mr Jeyaretnam or Mr Murugason, she said, and added:

`After all, she is only a washerwoman and they are lawyers.`

Mr Murugason, a WP candidate who lost in Jalan Kayu in the December general election, confirmed that he was acting for Mdm Chiew but declined to discuss the petition. Under election law, a person who has filed such a petition and paid the deposit to the Returning Officer is required to name the respondent upon whom the petition is to be served.



Once the respondent is served with the petition, the court will fix a date for hearing.

The words in the report which the plaintiff complained of as defamatory are in the paragraphs headed `Own accord`.

In para 4 of the amended statement of claim it is pleaded:

4 By the said words the Defendant meant and was understood to mean that the Plaintiff had acted improperly and or unethically in the conduct of his practice and an Advocate and Solicitor of this court.

Particulars of what the words meant and were understood to mean

(i) Mdm Chiew Kim Keat had not instructed the Plaintiff`s firm to present the petition.

(ii) The Plaintiff had presented or caused to be presented the petition to the court without getting proper instructions to do so from the Petitioner and was acting for her as her Solicitor.

(iii) Such conduct was improper unethical and unbecoming an Advocate and Solicitor of this Honourable Court.

Facts and matters on which the Plaintiff relies in respect of such meaning

(1) The Plaintiff repeats para 1 of the Statement of Statement of Claim herein.

(2) The Plaintiff is required in the practice of his profession as an Advocate and Solicitor to have a brief from any client before instituting any proceedings or acting in any way whatsoever on behalf of the client.

(3) The Plaintiff was not...

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5 cases
  • Lim Eng Hock Peter v Lin Jian Wei and Another
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 10 February 2009
  • Lee Hsien Loong v Review Publishing Company Ltd and another and another suit
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 21 February 2007
    ...said to support the innuendo meaning must be particularised: see O 78 r 3(1) of the Rules and Murugason v The Straits Times Press [1984-1985] SLR 334 at 337, Longham v Odhams Press [1963] 1 QB 299 at 306 and Fullam v Newcastle Chronicle and Journal [1997] 1 WLR 651 at 37 In this regard, Mr ......
  • Lim Eng Hock Peter v Lin Jian Wei and another
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 9 July 2008
    ...Microsoft Corp v SM Summit Holdings Ltd [1999] 3 SLR (R) 465; [1999] 4 SLR 529 (refd) Murugason v The Straits Times Press (1975) Ltd [1983-1984] SLR (R) 311; [1984-1985] SLR 334 (refd) Oei Hong Leong v Ban Song Long David [2005] 3 SLR (R) 608; [2005] 3 SLR 608 (refd) Tilling v Whiteman [198......
  • Lee Hsien Loong v Review Publishing Co Ltd and Another and Another Suit
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 21 February 2007
    ...said to support the innuendo meaning must be particularised: see O 78 r 3(1) of the Rules and Murugason v The Straits Times Press [1984-1985] SLR 334 at 337, Longham v Odhams Press [1963] 1 QB 299 at 306 and Fullam v Newcastle Chronicle and Journal [1997] 1 WLR 651 at 37 In this regard, Mr ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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