PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has ruled that a trial court has jurisdiction to punish contempt of court whether the offense was committed in or out of court.
In a unanimous decision, a three-man panel chaired by Judge Suraya Othman said the court found no merit in the argument of lawyer Datuk S. Ambiga, who represented former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, that a magistrate’s power to punish was limited to contempt of court only because of the words used in the provision.
In paragraph 26 of the Third Schedule to the Subordinate Courts Act 1948, the words “power to take cognizance of any contempt of court” are used to describe conviction for contempt of the Court of Sessions and the Magistrate’s Court.
Ambiga had submitted to the court that the words meant that the trial court only had the power to deal with contempt of court in court and not out of court.
“We have found no basis for this submission,” Judge Suraya said in Zoom proceedings on Tuesday.
Two other judges on the panel were Judges Abu Bakar Jais and Hashim Hamzah.
This is the AGC’s first appeal on whether the Coroner’s Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine committal proceedings.
Two other related appeals were filed by Muhammad Adib’s father, Mohd Kassim Abdul Hamid, which included the appeal against a High Court’s decision to overturn the coroner’s decision to grant him leave to institute proceedings incarceration against Thomas.
Muhammad Adib’s father, Mohd Kassim, 67, filed an ex parte application for a dismissal order against Thomas for allegedly insulting the court by filing an affidavit by the Attorney General’s office on April 3, 2019, stating that the death of Adib was not caused by injuries sustained.
Muhammad Adib, 24, who was attached to the Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue Station, was seriously injured during a riot at Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, USJ 25 on November 27, 2018.
He died on December 17, 2018 after 21 days at the National Heart Institute.
On September 27, 2019, the coroner’s court ruled that Muhammad Adib’s death was the result of a criminal act committed by more than two people.
In 2019, Shah Alam Coroner’s Court allowed Mohd Kassim to initiate committal proceedings against Thomas, accusing him of disrespecting the court by filing an affidavit that Adib’s death was not due to injuries caused by someone.
Thomas appealed and the High Court dismissed the family’s request to initiate contempt proceedings, but upheld a decision that the coroner’s court had the power to initiate and launch contempt proceedings.