4 Things About The Right To Privacy

4 Things About The Right To Privacy

1. Recognised as a fundamental human right

In Chin Jhin Thien & Anor v Chin Huat Yean @ Chin Chun Yean & Anor [2020] 4 MLJ 581, a case involving secret trusts, the Federal Court held the following:

“The concept of secret trust is consistent with the fundamental human right of privacy.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Rhodzariah Bujang JC (now FCJ) in Chong Chieng Jen v Mohd Irwan Hafiz bin Md Radzi & Anor [2009] 8 MLJ 364, had the occasion to say:

A person’s privacy and the right to his property are very basic rights of a man and that to his property is even enshrined under art 13(1) of the Federal Constitution.”[2] (Emphasis mine)

See also Datuk Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim v Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd & Anor [2013] 3 MLJ 534 (HC), at paragraph 78.

2. Recognised as being a constitutional right

Gopal Sri Ram FCJ in Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor [2010] 2 MLJ 333 was of the view that:

“It is patently clear from a review of the authorities that ‘personal liberty’ in art 5(1) includes within its compass other rights such as the right to privacy (see Govind v State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1975 SC 1378).”[3] (Emphasis mine)

In Genting Malaysia Bhd v Pesuruhjaya Perlindungan Data Peribadi & Ors [2022] 11 MLJ 898, a decision which involved provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 and the Income Tax Act , the High Court recognised the right to privacy as a constitutionally and statutorily protected right:

“In the upshot, this court rejects the manner in which the respondents read the provisions of the PDPA and the ITA which would infringe upon the right to privacy safely guarded by the FC. There is an abdication of statutory duty entrusted by the Parliament on the part of the commissioner/deputy commissioner in protecting personal data of the applicant’s customers and in addressing the real issues in this case. Despite the clear and binding decision of the Court of Appeal in the Malaysian Bar case, the Revenue continues to assert unlawfully that they have the absolute power and unfettered discretion under the ITA to encroach the constitutionally and statutorily protected right to privacy by attempting to have access to the applicant’s customer database without any shred of evidence that any particular individual being the applicant’s customer has engaged in any under-declaration of income or any offence under the ITA.”[4] (Emphasis mine)

3. A multidimensional concept

 In Toh See Wei v Teddric Jon Mohr & Anor [2017] 11 MLJ 67 (“Toh See Wei”), the learned High Court judge made the following observations about the right to privacy:

“[47]  The right to privacy is a multidimensional concept. In this modern society, right to privacy has been recognised both in the eye of law and in common parlance. The right to privacy refers to the specific right of an individual to control the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Personal information could be in the form of personal interests, habits and activities, family records, education records, communication (including mail and telephone) records, medical records, to name a few. An individual could easily be harmed by the existence of computerised data about him/her which is inaccurate or misleading and which could be transferred for an unauthorised third party at high speed at very little cost. Innovative technologies make personal data easily accessible and communicable and there is inherent conflict between right to privacy and data protection.

[48]  In short, the right to privacy means the right to be let alone, the right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity and the right to live without undue interference by the government or any private individual in matters with which the public is not concerned. The ‘right to privacy’ is recognised as basic human right in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Malaysia recognises the rights and liberties of the individual in the Federal Constitution as part of human rights protected by the supreme law of the land.”[5] (Emphasis mine)

4. Could possibly give rise to the tort of invasion of privacy

In Lee Ewe Poh v Dr Lim Teik Man & Anor [2011] 1 MLJ 835, the High Court was of the view that invasion of privacy is an actionable tort:

“Although Maslinda Ishak‘s case is not directly on point, the fact remains that the High Court in so finding has departed from the old English law that invasion of privacy is not an actionable tort and our Court of Appeal indirectly, though this issue was not canvassed, seems to endorse such cause of action when the pleadings were specifically referred to and the Court of Appeal did not overrule invasion of privacy as a cause of action on ground that it is not one in line with the English law. Since such a cause of action has been accepted as a cause of action under our common law, it is thus permissible for a plaintiff to found his/her action on it. Drawing an analogy of this Court of Appeal case, I am inclined to hold the view that since our courts especially the Court of Appeal have accepted such an act to be a cause of action, it is thus actionable.”[6] (Emphasis mine)

Stephen Chung JC (later JCA) in Sherinna Nur Elena bt Abdullah v Kent Well Edar Sdn Bhd [2014] 7 MLJ 298 (“Sherinna Nur Elena”) appeared to be open to the actionability of the tort of invasion of privacy:

“… the plaintiff is at liberty to sue the defendant for invasion of her privacy …”[7]

However, on the facts of Sherinna Nur Elena, the learned Judicial Commissioner was of the view that to “to allow the action to proceed to trial will amount to an abuse of the process of the court.”[8]

Notwithstanding the above, a number of High Court decisions took a contrary position (namely that invasion of privacy is not an actionable tort):

(a) Mohamad Izaham bin Mohamed Yatim v Norina bt Zainol Abidin & Ors [2017] 7 MLJ 772, per Vazeer Alam Mydin J (now JCA): :

“However, in the face of a direct and express affirmation by the Court of Appeal in Dr Bernadine Malini Martin v MPH Magazine Sdn Bhd & Ors and another appeal [2010] 5 MLJ 755; [2010] 7 CLJ 525 (CA) (a case later to Maslinda Ishak) that the law does not recognise invasion of privacy as an actionable tort, I am not prepared to make a definitive ruling to the contrary. In as much as I may agree that this area of the law is ripe for reform, I am bound by the doctrine of stare decisis to apply the law as it stands, and the law as it stands now is that, in the circumstance of the pleaded facts, no such actionable tort for invasion of privacy can arise.”[9] (Emphasis mine)

(b) John Dadit v Bong Meng Chiat & Ors [2015] MLJU 1961, per Yew Jen Kie J:

“I am of the view that the Plaintiff’s cause of action in tort of privacy must fail for the reason that the Common Law in England does not recognize any right to privacy nor tort of privacy. Also, there is no written law in force in Malaysia for such a right to privacy nor tort of invasion of privacy.”[10] (Emphasis mine)

(c) Ultra Dimension Sdn Bhd v Kook Wei Kuan [2001] MLJU 751 (“Ultra Dimension”), per Faiza Thamby Chik J:

“Based on the above authorities, I am of the view that it is clear that English Common Law does not recognise privacy rights and it therefore follows that invasion of privacy rights does not give rise to cause of action. As English Common Law is applicable in Malaysia pursuant to Section 3 of the Civil Law Act 1956, privacy rights which is not recognised under English Law is accordingly not recognised under Malaysian law. Thus, the Respondent does not have the right to institute an action against the Appellant for invasion of privacy rights. It is noteworthy that invasion of privacy rights via taking and publication of photographs (as in the facts of the instant appeal) is also not recognised in countries such as Australia and the United States of America. Page 183 in the book of “Torts in the Nineties — Nicholas J Mullany” touched on privacy rights in Australia and the United States …”[11] (Emphasis mine)

(d) Lew Cher Phow @ Lew Cha Paw & Ors v Pua Yong Yong Anor Pua Keng Siang [2009] MLJU 1331, a decision on an application for permanent injunction,[12] Kamardin bin Hashim JC (later JCA) relied upon the High Court’s decision in Ultra Dimension[13] to support his decision to dismiss the application.

At the present moment, it is unclear whether the tort of invasion of privacy is an actionable tort within Malaysian jurisprudence.


Proposed Pupillage Allowance Formula

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion regarding pupillage allowances.[1] Most legal practitioners recognise that pupils should receive an allowance.[2] The issue, rather, is how much the said allowance should be.

It cannot be denied that there are various factors which come into play when determining how much allowance a pupil should be given.[3]

In order to contribute to the all-important discussion in a more constructive and concrete manner, I would like to propose the following formula as a guide in determining a pupillage allowance sum:

Pupillage Allowance = Pupil’s Key Expenses (A) + Top Up (B)


Formula for (A): Monthly Rental (if any) + Food* + Transportation + Loans (if any)

The purpose of (A) is to ensure the Pupil’s core needs and expenses are met.

*at a reasonable sum based on the average cost per meal in the locality[4]


Formula for (B): Approximate total number of hours the Pupil works in a month x a chosen multiplier**

The purpose of (B) is to, inter alia:

i. compensate the Pupil for his/her qualification;

ii. compensate the Pupil for time spent working for the firm;

iii. compensate the Pupil for experience gained; and

iv. provide some room for savings by the Pupil

**the multiplier should at least be 5.77 for major towns[5] and 5.29 for everywhere else.[6]


A Further Extension of the MCO is Inevitable

As at the time of writing, the Movement Control Order (“MCO”) is expected to be in place until 14th April 2020.[1] The Health Director General, however, has not ruled out the possibility of a further extension of the MCO. It is all dependent on whether Malaysia succeeds in flattening the curve and preventing any exponential spikes, thus breaking the chain of infections.[2]

It cannot be denied that COVID-19 is highly contagious. The virus has an estimated R naught of somewhere between 2.0 and 2.6,[3] with the average being 2.2.[4] This means that for every 1 infected person, COVID-19 could spread to 2.0 to 2.6 other people.

Early figures have shown that the MCO is successful in flattening the curve.[5] However, the World Health Organisation has also stated that it expects the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia to peak in mid-April.[6]

Apart from the expected peak in cases, a persuasive reason for extension in and of itself, the following are some reasons why a further extension of the MCO is inevitable.

There are untested infected individuals

With regard to the tabligh cluster, the Health Director General stated on 27th March 2020 that 13,762 individuals were screened with 9,327 samples taken to be tested. 1,117 of the samples tested positive, 5,646 tested negative, while 2,564 were still pending results.[7]

As at 28th March 2020, 5,084 individuals connected to the tabligh cluster (including attendees, their family members, and other close contacts) had yet to be tested.[8]

1,117 out of the 6,763 individuals whose results are available were found to be infected with COVID-19 (16.50%). Assuming 16.50% of the remaining 7,648 individuals (2,564 awaiting results and 5,084 untested) from the tabligh cluster are infected with the virus, this would mean an addition of approximately 1,262 COVID-19 cases.

Not forgetting individuals who may have contracted COVID-19 from inter alia having travelled overseas.

Some of these untested infected individuals may be asymptomatic. Others may only have mild symptoms and are able to manage their illnesses at home.[9] However, during that time, these untested infected individuals will certainly be in contact with their family members who may then be out and about during the MCO period thereby further spreading the virus.


Mengapakah Perlunya Forum Mengenai Statut Rom?

Seorang hadirin forum Malaysia dan Statut Rom yang diadakan di Auditorium Tun Mohamed Sufian, Fakulti Undang-Undang Universiti Malaya [1] [forum ini] menggunakan peluangnya semasa sesi soal jawab untuk berhujah bahawa forum ini tidak sepatutnya terjadi memandangkan Kerajaan Persekutuan telahpun memutuskan untuk menarik diri daripada meratifikasikan Statut Rom.

Artikel ini bertujuan untuk memberikan beberapa sebab mengapa perlunya forum sedemikian, daripada perspektif parti ketiga yang tidak berkepentingan.

Pertamanya, kita perlu jelas bahawa sebarang keputusan Kerajaan Persekutuan bukanlah muktamad. Pada 4.3.2019, Kerajaan Persekutuan melalui Menteri Luar Negeri, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, mengumumkan bahawa ia berniat untuk meratifikasikan Statut Rom. Keputusan ini selaras dengan janji Kerajaan Persekutuan dalam Janji 26 Manifesto Pakatan Harapan [2].

Namun, Kerajaan Persekutuan telahpun membuat pusingan mengenai isu ini pada 5.4.2019. Ini jelas membuktikan bahawa keputusan Kerajaan Persekutuan tertakluk kepada perubahan.

Sekiranya keputusan Kerajaan Persekutuan boleh diubah, rakyat marhaen wajar mengadakan perbicangan secara ilmiah untuk mempertimbangkan merit sesuatu keputusan yang dibuat. Ketidakpuasan hati rakyat, berdasarkan fakta dan hujahan yang bernas, boleh disalurkan kepada Kerajaan Persekutuan agar ia mempertimbangkan keputusannya.

Selain itu, tiada sebarang forum/dialog terbuka dengan pihak berkepentingan dilakukan sebelum Kerajaan Persekutuan membuat keputusan pengratifikasian dan selepas itu, untuk menarik diri daripada mengratifikasikan Statut Rom.

Sekurang-kurangnya, forum ini membenarkan orang awam memahami pendirian, antara lain, Jabatan Peguam Negara Malaysia berkenaan dengan isu yang dibincangkan. Dalam konteks forum ini, pendapat Jabatan Peguam Negara Malaysia mengenai Statut Rom dan implikasinya terutamanya kepada Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong, jelas dinyatakan dan dihuraikan.

Forum ini juga memberikan para hadirin konteks mengenai keputusan Kerajaan Persekutuan terdahulu untuk meratifikasikan Statut Rom. Ini didedahkan oleh Dato’ Noor Farida, seorang ahli panelis forum ini, dalam pembentangannya. Rupa-rupanya pengratifikasian Statut Rom bukanlah perkara yang baharu tetapi merupakan kesinambungan komitmen kerajaan terdahulu.

Selanjutnya, forum seperti ini diperlukan demi pemeliharaan integriti akademik dan kejujuran intelektual.

Rumusan eksekutif kertas kerja yang dibentangkan Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Dr Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz, Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan, dan Hisham Hanapi [keempat-empat ahli akademik tersebut] kepada Majlis Raja-Raja pada 2.4.2019 dibongkarkan oleh ahli panelis Asheeq Ali dan rakan-rakannya baru-baru ini [3]. Setelah itu berlaku, beberapa individu yang terpelajar telah membalas hujahan yang dibangkitkan keempat-empat ahli akademik tersebut.

Antara mereka yang membalas hujahan keempat-empat ahli akademik tersebut adalah ahli panelis forum ini, iaitu Lim Wei Jiet [4].

Dalam keadaan ini, keempat-empat ahli akademik tersebut perlu tampil untuk menjawab pengkritik mereka secara ilmiah. Forum ini menyediakan platfom sedemikian.

Malangnya keempat-empat ahli akademik tersebut tidak menghadiri forum ini walaupun dipelawa. Dua daripada empat ahli akademik tersebut menolak jemputan tersebut manakala dua lagi ahli akademik yang terlibat tidak langsung memberi respon kepada pelawaan penganjur forum ini.

Akhirul kalam, saya menyaran agar lebih banyak lagi forum seperti ini diadakan atas sebab-sebab yang telah dinyatakan. Kepada mereka yang berminat dengan isu Statut Rom dan analisa perundangannya, janganlah melepaskan peluang untuk menghadiri forum yang akan dianjurkan oleh Jawatankuasa Hak Asasi Manusia Majlis Peguam Malaysia pada Sabtu, 4 Mei 2019 [5].

[1] https://www.facebook.com/events/394095787872209/?ti=cl

[2] https://store.ubah.my/Manifesto_PH_BM.pdf

[3] https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2085893961447192&id=100000798263477

[4] https://www.malaymail.com/news/what-you-think/2019/04/08/alleged-academic-presentation-to-council-of-rulers-a-point-by-point-rebutta/1740834

[5] http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=7789&Itemid=332

This article also appeared on The Malaysian Times

Kiki vs Khoo

(Source: Free Malaysia Today)

I believe Kiki Kamaruddin needs no further introduction. She is famous (or infamous) enough because of her actions four months ago

Khoo, however, is the new “Kiki Kamaruddin” if you will. He damaged another driver’s wiper and side mirror, as well as spat on her windscreen because she honked at him for changing lanes recklessly.

How he felt he is in the right is beyond my comprehension. On top of that absurdity, he is 58 years old, and one would reasonably expect him to have been more skilled when it comes to driving.

Anyway, the reason I am writing this is because there are netizens accusing a certain group of Malaysians of practicing double standards. They say that mainly because that group of people were more vocal in Kiki’s case

Prima facie, both situations have a material difference. Kiki was being a racist road bully towards Uncle Sim. Just a recap of some of the things she said:

“you think you are Chinese that you are bigger and better than us!”

“tak, dia cina, saya tahu dia punya intention” (no, he’s Chinese, I know his intention)

Khoo is obviously a road bully too, but he did not racially abuse Alisa. Perhaps if he uttered derogatory/racist words to Alisa, the backlash would have likely been bigger

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what Khoo did was justified and should not be objurgated because he did not racially abuse the other party. I believe both Khoo and Kiki were legally wrong, and as such, should be punished heavily as a deterrent for themselves and others

All I’m saying is that we should not turn everything into a racial issue. Regardless of the race of the road bully or the victim, the perpetrator must face the legal consequences of his/her actions.

As Malaysians, let us unite to condemn road bullying. Let this be a future lesson to all existing road-bullies and road-bullies-to-be that their behaviour is not tolerable and WHEN they are caught, they WILL face the full brunt of the law

*Check it out at The Malaysian Insider, Malaysian Chronicle, and Free Malaysia Today