Bonifac Lobo A/L Robert V. Lobo & Anor v Tribunal Pengurusan Strata, Putrajaya & Ors [2020] MLJU 487

 

Bonifac Lobo A/L Robert V. Lobo & Anor v Tribunal Pengurusan Strata, Putrajaya & Ors [2020] MLJU 487

Federal Court (Putrajaya)

Rules of Natural Justice

Facts

1.   Mr Lobo, the Appellant in this case is a proprietor of a parcel in the Silverpark Resort, Fraser Hill (“Resort”) and was elected as the chairman of the Joint Management Committee (“JMC”), the executive arm of the Joint Management Body (“JMB”) of the Resort that was comprised of four other elected committee members.

2.   In May 2015, all the four committee members resigned, and the 3rd to Ninth Respondents were elected as committee members of the JMC during an extraordinary general meeting (“the EGM”).

3.  Dissatisfied with the appointment, the Appellant filed a claim to the Strata Management Tribunal (“Tribunal”) that the EGM was invalid.

4.  The proceedings commenced before the Tribunal presided by the President (“Second Respondent”) but was later adjourned after the Appellant applied to recuse the Second Respondent on the ground that the 2nd Respondent had made adverse remarks against him and failed to give him an opportunity to make his reply submission.

5.    The Tribunal did not find merits in the Appellant’s claim, therefore, the Second Respondent dismissed the Appellant’s claim and the recusal application.

6.   Dissatisfied with the Tribunal’s award, the Appellant applied to the High Court for a judicial review in setting aside the Tribunal’s award on the grounds that the Tribunal had breached the rules of natural justice in hearing and determining the Appellant’s claim.

7.  The High Court dismissed the Appellant’s application for judicial review with costs on the following grounds:

(a)          The Tribunal had in fact heard the submission of parties on the substantive claim.

(b)        The Appellant had been given the opportunity to respond orally to the Respondent’s arguments and even if the Appellant had been prevented, he had reasonable opportunity to provide written submission.

(c)        There is no rule of general application that prohibits a judge or other tribunal from hearing an application for his own recusal.

8.   The appeal to the Court of Appeal also affirmed the decision of the High Court.

Issue

Whether the Second Respondent as the President of the Tribunal had breached the rules of natural justice in determining the Appellant’s claim.

Ratios

1.     The right to a fair trial, and in particular the right to be heard and given a fair chance to submit evidence and arguments before a tribunal renders its judgement, is the foundation of the principal of natural justice.

2.     However, based on the established circumstances, the Court found that the learned judge had come to the conclusion that there had been no violation of natural justice or improper procedural practises throughout the Tribunal’s decision-making process.

3.     The Court took the same stand as the learned judge as he relied on the fact that the 2nd Respondent had heard arguments from parties regarding the merits of the substantive claims in reaching his conclusion.

4.     This is based on the facts that prior to pronouncing the Tribunal award, the Second Respondent had given the Appellant the chance to present their case orally and to address the Respondents’ points.

5.     The Court further held that that it is correct that the Second Respondent was not required to provide the Appellant with the authorities he intended to rely on before he made a decision regarding the recusal application and that there is no general rule that prohibits a judge or other tribunal from hearing an application for its own recusal.

6.     On the note, it is also worth noting that the Court of Appeal concluded on the issue of the adverse remarks made by the Second Respondent that his outburst cannot be said to prejudicially affected the case as his criticism was with regards to the manner of the Appellant in conducting his case and not on the merits of the case itself.

Decision 1.    The Federal Court dismissed the appeal with costs to the Appellant.
Key Take Away

1.    The principle of natural justice originated from the outcome of necessity of judicial thinking in applying the norms of a fair play.

2.    Natural justice may consists of these 3 rules-

(a)          Hearing rule – a fair opportunity to express a point of view to defend oneself

(b)          Bias rule – the decision given must be in a free and fair manner

(c)      Reasoned Decision – judgement given must be relied with a valid and reasonable    ground.

 

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