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CASES(S) OF THE WEEK

LAND LAW: Acquisition of land - Acquisition by State Authority - Development and construction of road - Total sum paid to land owner exceeded amount awarded - Action to recover overpaid sum - Application under s. 33 of Government Proceedings Act 1956 for recovery of overpaid sum

CIVIL PROCEDURE: Parties - Proper parties to be sued, whether - Land acquisition by State Authority for construction of road - Total sum paid to land owner exceeded amount awarded - Action to recover overpaid sum - Application under s. 33 of Government Proceedings Act 1956 for recovery of overpaid sum - State Financial Officer cited as party - Whether party in which judgment was based


SEGAMAT CONSOLIDATED SDN BHD v. PEGAWAI KEWANGAN NEGERI JOHOR
COURT OF APPEAL, PUTRAJAYA
RAMLY ALI JCA, ANANTHAM KASINATHER JCA, MOHD ZAWAWI SALLEH JCA
[CIVIL APPEAL NO: J-01-646-11-2011]
9 JANUARY 2014

In 1993, the Johor State Authority had acquired 10 lots of land belonging to the appellant for the development and construction of `Projek Laluan Kedua Malaysia-Singapura dan Pembangunan Kawasan Gelang Patah'. However, it was discovered later that the total sum paid to the appellant exceeded the actual amount awarded. The Johor State Director of Land & Mines and the Johor Bahru Land Administrator (`the plaintiffs') commenced an action against the appellant to recover the overpaid sum. In refuting the claim, the appellant counterclaimed against the plaintiffs for the remaining 25% of the award of RM2,864,972.10 (`the said sum'). The court dismissed the plaintiff's claim and allowed the appellant's counterclaim. Dissatisfied, the plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeal but the appeal was dismissed. The Court of Appeal order was served on the plaintiffs and the Johor State Legal Advisor's Office and the appellant repeatedly reminded and requested for payment from the plaintiffs. Consequently, the appellant made an application to the High Court by virtue of s. 33 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 (`GPA') to compel the plaintiffs to pay the said sum. The appellant then proceeded to file an application for judicial review for an order of mandamus, citing the State Financial Officer (`the respondent') as a party. In dismissing the appellant's application, the High Court reasoned that (i) the respondent was not a party in which the judgment was based; and (ii) the application for an order of mandamus was made out of time or there was an inordinate delay. Hence, the present appeal.

Held (allowing appeal and setting aside decision of court below)

Per Mohd Zawawi Salleh JCA delivering the judgment of the court:

(1) The respondent was correctly cited as a party to the judicial review proceeding since the financial affairs of the State of Johor are within the responsibility and control of the respondent. Article 6(2)(c) of the Johor State Constitution (Second Part) provided that the State Financial Officer to be the principal officer in charge of financial affairs of the State. Further, art. 37(1)(c) provided that any money required to satisfy any judgment should be charged to the consolidated fund. As conferred by the Johor State Constitution, the duty to make payment in satisfaction of a judgment debt against the State related to financial affairs of the State, laid in the hands of the respondent. There was no one to whom the order of the court could more appropriately be addressed for purposes of satisfying the amount payable in terms of the certificate (paras 15 & 16).

(2) The appellant only commenced the enforcement proceeding after all the appeals against the said judgment had been disposed of and the plaintiffs' recalcitrance to pay the said judgment. By virtue of s. 33(3) of the GPA, the State was under a statutory duty to pay the judgment sum as stated in the certificate. In such circumstances, the duty to pay arose upon service of the certificate. Given the fact that the service of the certificate was not met with payment, the ground of application first arose on 13 January 2011 while the application for judicial review was filed on 31 January 2011. Therefore, it was well within time (paras 27 & 29).

(3) Once a judgment becomes final, the winning party was entitled as a matter of right to enforce the judgment. The appellant had obtained an order of mandamus to compel the respondent to honour payment of judgment sum as required by the certificate issued pursuant to s. 33 of the GPA. The respondent could not take refuge in unnecessary legal technicalities to avoid giving effect to the said order. The respondent must take all steps that were necessary to ensure that the State Authority complied with the court order. (paras 30 & 31)

Bahasa Malaysia Translation Of Headnotes

Pada tahun 1993, Pihak Berkuasa Negeri Johor telah mengambil 10 lot tanah milik perayu bagi pembangunan dan pembinaan `Projek Laluan Kedua Malaysia-Singapura dan Pembangunan Kawasan Gelang Patah'. Walau bagaimanapun, didapati kemudian bahawa jumlah keseluruhan yang dibayar oleh perayu melebihi jumlah sebenar yang diawardkan. Pengarah Tanah & Galian Negeri Johor dan Pentadbir Tanah Johor Bahru (`plaintif-plaintif') memulakan tindakan terhadap perayu untuk mendapatkan semula jumlah terlebih bayar tersebut. Dalam menafikan tuntutan, perayu menuntut balas terhadap plaintif-plaintif bagi baki 25% daripada award RM2,864,972.10 (`jumlah tersebut'). Mahkamah menolak tuntutan plaintif dan membenarkan tuntutan balas perayu. Tidak berpuas hati, plaintif merayu ke Mahkamah Rayuan tetapi permohonan tersebut ditolak. Perintah Mahkamah Rayuan disampaikan kepada plaintif-plaintif dan Pejabat Penasihat Undang-undang Negeri Johor dan perayu berulang kali mengingatkan dan meminta bayaran daripada plaintif-plaintif. Seterusnya, perayu membuat permohonan kepada Mahkamah Tinggi di bawah s. 33 Akta Prosiding Kerajaan 1956 (`APK') untuk mengarahkan plaintif-plaintif membayar jumlah tersebut. Perayu kemudiannya memfailkan permohonan bagi semakan kehakiman untuk perintah mandamus, menamakan Pegawai Kewangan Negeri sebagai pihak. Dalam menolak permohonan perayu, Mahkamah Tinggi memberi alasan bahawa (i) responden bukanlah pihak yang mana penghakiman diasaskan; dan (ii) permohonan bagi perintah mandamus dibuat luar had masa atau bahawa terdapat kelewatan melampau. Oleh itu, rayuan ini.

Diputuskan (membenarkan rayuan dan mengenepikan keputusan mahkamah bawahan)

Oleh Mohd Zawawi Salleh HMR menyampaikan penghakiman mahkamah:

(1) Responden telah dengan betul dinamakan sebagai pihak kepada prosiding semakan kehakiman kerana hal ehwal kewangan Negeri Johor adalah menjadi tanggungjawab dan kawalan responden. Perkara 6(2)(c) Perlembagaan Negeri Johor (Bahagian Kedua) memperuntukkan bahawa Pegawai Kewangan Negeri adalah pegawai utama yang bertugas dalam hal ehwal kewangan Negeri. Selanjutnya, perkara 37(1)(c) memperuntukkan bahawa sebarang kewangan yang diperlukan untuk memenuhi mana-mana penghakiman harus dicajkan kepada gabungan dana. Seperti yang diperuntukkan oleh Perlembagaan Negeri Johor, kewajipan untuk membuat bayaran bagi memenuhi hutang penghakiman terhadap Negeri berkaitan dengan hal ehwal Negeri, terletak dalam tangan responden. Tiada siapa lagi yang mana mahkamah boleh tujukan bagi tujuan memenuhi jumlah yang perlu dibayar dalam sijil.

(2) Perayu hanya memulakan prosiding pelaksanaan selepas kesemua rayuan terhadap penghakiman tersebut telah dilupuskan dan akibat kedegilan plaintif-plaintif untuk membayar penghakiman tersebut. Berdasarkan s. 33(3) APK, Negeri mempunyai kewajipan statutori untuk membayar jumlah penghakiman seperti yang dinyatakan dalam sijil. Dalam hal keadaan sedemikian, kewajipan untuk membayar berbangkit daripada penyampaian sijil. Memandangkan penyampaian sijil tidak dibalas dengan bayaran, alasan permohonan pada awalnya timbul pada 13 Januari 2011 sedangkan permohonan semakan kehakiman difailkan pada 31 Januari 2011. Oleh itu, ia masih dalam tempoh masa.

(3) Apabila satu penghakiman menjadi muktamad, pihak yang berjaya berhak, dari sisi hak, untuk melaksanakan penghakiman. Perayu telah mendapatkan perintah mandamus untuk mengarahkan responden membuat bayaran bagi hutang penghakiman seperti yang diperlukan dalam sijil yang dikeluarkan di bawah s. 33 APK. Responden tidak boleh berlindung di bawah teknikaliti-teknikaliti undang-undang yang tidak perlu untuk mengelakkan daripada melaksanakan perintah tersebut. Responden mestilah mengambil langkah-langkah yang perlu untuk memastikan bahawa Pihak Berkuasa Negeri mematuhi peraturan mahkamah.

Case(s) referred to:

Ibeneweka v. Egbuna [1964] 1 WLR 219 (refd)

Kerajaan Malaysia & Ors v. Lay Kee Tee & Ors [2009] 1 CLJ 663 FC (refd)

Menteri Besar Negeri Pahang Darul Makmur v. Seruan Gemilang Makmur Sdn Bhd [2010] 5 CLJ 123 CA (refd)

Minister of Finance, Government of Sabah v. Petrojasa Sdn Bhd [2008] 5 CLJ 321 FC (refd)

Steven Phoa Cheng Loon & Ors v. Highland Properties Sdn Bhd & Ors [2000] 4 CLJ 508 HC (refd)

Yee Seng Plantations Sdn Bhd v. Kerajaan Negeri Terengganu & Ors [2000] 3 CLJ 666 CA (refd)

Legislation referred to:

Financial Procedure Act 1957, s. 6(2)

Government Proceedings Act 1956, ss. 5, 6(1), (4), 33(3)

Johor State Constitution (Second Part), arts. 6(2)(c), 37(1)(c)

Land Acquisition Act 1960, s. 14

National Land Code, ss. 12(1), (2), 16(1), (2), (3)

Public Authorities Protection Act 1948, s. 2(a)

Counsel:

For the appellant - Norizawati Md Nor; M/s Lee Fook Leong & Co

For the respondent - Shahrizal Shaari; SFC

[Appeal from High Court, Johor Bahru; Judicial Review No: 25-3-2011]

Reported by Najib Tamby




CONTRACT: Waiver - Conditions precedent - Sale and Purchase agreement - Sale of shares and substantial assets of company - Shareholders' approval for sale - Whether waived by parties - Whether offending s. 132C Companies Act 1965 - Mandatory statutory requirements - Whether could not be waived by contracting parties - Whether waiver void - Whether agreement invalidated - Claims based on terms of agreement - Whether unsustainable - Contracts Act 1950, s. 24 - Companies Act 1965, s. 132C & 132C(3)

CONTRACT: Void contract - Formation - Effect - Sale and purchase agreement - Sale of shares and substantial assets of company - Shareholders' approval for sale waived by parties - Whether contravening s. 132 Companies Act 1965 - Whether parties had `actual notice' of contravention - Whether not entitled to exception to `void' rule - Whether contract void and not voidable - Benefits paid and received under contract - Whether to be restored - Contracts Act 1950, s. 66 - Companies Act 1965, s. 132C & 132C(3)

CIVIL PROCEDURE: Damages - Contract, breach of - Sale and purchase agreement - Contract performed in manner prohibited by statute - Whether void and unenforceable - Breach of terms thereof - Whether not amenable to order for damages - Defendant ordered to pay damages to be assessed or in lieu of assessment agreed liquidated damages as per void agreement - Whether devoid of legal basis

CIVIL PROCEDURE: Interest - Interest payable on refund - Interest payable on refund of money paid under void contract - Calculation - Effective date for calculation of interest - Whether to take effect from date action was commenced at first instance - Whether inappropriate to award interest from date before institution of action


TAN CHEE HOE & SONS SDN BHD v. CODE FOCUS SDN BHD
FEDERAL COURT, PUTRAJAYA
RAUS SHARIF PCA, ABDULL HAMID EMBONG FCJ, AHMAD MAAROP FCJ, ABU SAMAH NORDIN FCJ, RAMLY ALI FCJ
[CIVIL APPEAL NO: 02(f)-32-06-2013(W)]
4 MARCH 2014

The defendant (appellant) is the owner of the entire shares in Choo Hoe Sdn Bhd (CHSB) whose only asset is a piece of land in the township of Kuala Lumpur. By an agreement dated 10 November 1995 (`SPA'), the defendant agreed to sell the whole of its shareholding in CHSB to the plaintiff for a consideration of RM16 million. The plaintiff paid a 10% deposit of RM1.6 million and undertook to pay the balance sum by the completion date, 9 February 1996. The facts showed that the SPA made the completion date subject to two conditions, viz. the respective approvals of the Foreign Investment Committee and the defendant's shareholders for the intended sale (`conditions precedent'). However, by a document executed by the plaintiff simultaneously with the SPA (`side letter'), the plaintiff waived the defendant's obligations vis-à-vis the conditions precedent. The plaintiff executed the side letter notwithstanding that one of the conditions precedent, namely approval of the defendant's shareholders at an EGM, was mandated by s. 132C of the Companies Act 1965 (`Companies Act'). Misunderstandings arose between the parties as to their respective obligations under the SPA, and by the completion date, neither the balance sum nor vacant possession had been exchanged between the plaintiff and the defendant. Subsequently, the defendant terminated the SPA and forfeited the deposit. Arising therefrom, on 22 January 2002, the plaintiff filed an action in the Kuala Lumpur High Court claiming for the refund of the deposit, albeit unsuccessfully. It was the view of the High Court Judge, in dismissing the claim, that the waiver in the side letter was valid and enforceable, and that the defendant's non-performance of the conditions precedent did not cause the SPA to be void. According to the learned judge further, delivery of vacant possession was only a warranty and that the defendant's failure to deliver vacant possession on the completion date did not therefore amount to a breach of condition of the SPA. On appeal, the Court of Appeal however reversed the High Court's finding, opining that the mandatory statutory requirements under s. 132C of the Companies Act could not be waived, that the side letter was ineffective and void, that the SPA was not void but only voidable at the plaintiff's option, and that the defendant had breached the SPA. The Court of Appeal, in the event, ordered for the refund of RM1.6 million deposit and for damages to be assessed with interest at 8% p.a. calculated from 10 February 1996 (the completion date) to the date of full settlement, or, in lieu of assessment, for the defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of RM3.2 million as agreed liquidated damages as per cl. 11B of the SPA.

Before the Federal Court, leave to appeal was granted essentially on the following questions of law, namely: (i) whether, in view of s. 66 of the Contracts Act 1950 (`Contracts Act'), the Court of Appeal could make the order for damages to be assessed in favour of the plaintiff or in lieu thereof, to enforce cl. 11B of the void SPA; and (ii) whether `vacant possession' in a property transaction means freedom from physical impediment which substantially interferes with the enjoyment of a substantial part of the property. Evidently too, in its quest to challenge the restitution order of the Court of Appeal, the defendant, inter alia, relied on the authorities of the Federal Court and the Privy Council respectively in Rimba Muda Timber Trading v. Lim Kuoh Wee (`Rimba Muda') and Sajan Singh v. Sardara Ali (`Sajan Singh').

Held (allowing appeal partly; setting aside order for damages to be assessed together with interest or in lieu thereof for payment of RM3.2 million as agreed liquidated damages; affirming order to refund 10% deposit to plaintiff with variation that interest be made payable from 22 January 2002 to date of full settlement)

Per Ramly Ali FCJ delivering the judgment of the court:

(1) The effect of the old and new subs. 3 of s. 132C of the Companies Act on the status of a third party dealing with the company is still the same, ie, it loses the benefit of the statutory rule in s. 132C(1) if it had `actual notice' of the contravention or non-compliance of the requirement. In other words, if a third party such as the plaintiff had `actual notice' of the non-compliance of s. 132C(1), then it cannot rely on the exception under s. 132C(3) to enforce the transaction or agreement in question. Such transaction or agreement is void and invalid (not voidable) as against the whole world including the third party. (para 24)

(2) The side letter was signed with the plaintiff's approval and authority and was validly executed. The effect of the finding of the learned judge on this issue is clear, in that the plaintiff had actual notice of the non-compliance or contravention of the mandatory statutory requirement under s. 132C of the Companies Act at the time the SPA was executed on 10 November 1995. The side letter showed that the plaintiff had agreed to consciously waive the provision of s. 132C. The side letter therefore had invalidated the SPA. Such waiver clearly contravenes the mandatory requirement under s. 132C and, pursuant to s. 24 of the Contracts Act, is invalid in law. (paras 30, 31, 32, 35)

(3) The SPA was not merely voidable at the option of the plaintiff as found by the Court of Appeal, but invalid and void. Consequently, the plaintiff cannot make any claim based on the terms of such void agreement. The SPA, although lawful on its face according to its own terms, was unlawful as it was performed in a manner which the law or statute prohibits. The plaintiff had knowingly participated in the contravention of the statutory requirement under s. 132C of the Companies Act and was therefore not entitled to the protection under the exception in subs. 3 of the section. (paras 35 & 36)

(4) The plaintiff was trying to enforce a void contract. The SPA became void when the mandatory statutory requirement of shareholders' approval was not obtained and was consciously waived by the parties at the time it was executed. Therefore, s. 66 of the Contracts Act came into play, ie, that the defendant who had received an advantage (10% deposit of RM1.6 million) under the void contract is bound to restore it to the plaintiff from whom he received it. (paras 40, 41 & 55)

(5) While we agree with the Court of Appeal on the refund of the 10% deposit of RM1.6 million to the plaintiff, we cannot agree on the award of interest thereon "at the rate of 8% per annum calculated from 10 February 1996 to the date of full settlement". The SPA was void from the day of its execution when both parties knowingly and consciously agreed for the waiver in the side letter. The 10% deposit was paid by the plaintiff with such background and it is therefore unconscionable for the plaintiff to be allowed interest from 10 February 1996 (the day after completion date). If at all interest is to be awarded on the 10% deposit, it should start from the date when the action was first filed by the plaintiff in the High Court. We would hence order for interest on the refunded deposit to be fixed at the rate of 8% p.a. calculated from 22 January 2002 until date of full settlement. (paras 43 - 46)

(6) Rimba Muda and Sajan Singh can be distinguished as both were dealing with situations where the disputed contracts, though found to be illegal, were fully executed and fully carried out by the parties. The situation in the present case is different as: (i) the SPA was not completed by the completion date; (ii) a mandatory precondition statutory requirement under s. 132C of the Companies Act had not been obtained or fulfilled; (iii) the parties have not fully discharged their obligations under the SPA; and (iv) the subject matter of the sale, namely the transfer of the shares from the defendant to the plaintiff, had not yet been effected. (paras 48 - 50).

(7) By making the order for damages, the Court of Appeal was clearly enforcing the void SPA. There is no legal basis for that order. It is perfectly settled that where the contract which the plaintiff seeks to enforce is expressly or by implication forbidden by common law or statute, as in the present case, no court of law will lend its assistance and give effect to the same, more so when both parties to the contract, as here, had consciously and willingly agreed to the contravention of the law by not complying with the requirement of s. 132C. (para 54)

(8) Non-compliance or contravention of the mandatory statutory requirement under s. 132C of the Companies Act rendered the SPA void and not enforceable by law. The question of "vacant possession" therefore is no longer relevant. In the circumstances, we would answer the questions posed as follows: viz. that (a) the mandatory statutory provisions under s. 132C must be complied with and cannot be waived by agreement of the parties; (b) non-compliance or contravention of the requirement renders the contract void and invalid and not enforceable by law; (c) by virtue of s. 66 of the Contracts Act, the court of law may order restoration of whatever consideration or advantage paid or given under the contract; and (d) being a void contract, the court cannot order damages for breach of any term of the contract in favour of one of the contracting parties. (paras 58 & 59)

Bahasa Malaysia Translation Of Headnotes

Defendan (perayu) adalah pemilik kesemua saham-saham di dalam Choo Hoe Sdn Bhd (CHSB) yang memiliki hanya sebidang tanah di dalam bandar Kuala Lumpur sebagai asetnya. Melalui perjanjian bertarikh 10 November 1995 (`SPA'), defendan beraku untuk menjual keseluruhan pegangan sahamnya di dalam CHSB kepada plaintif untuk balasan RM16 juta. Plaintif membayar 10% deposit berjumlah RM1.6 juta dan berjanji untuk membayar baki harga pada atau sebelum tarikh penyempurnaan, 9 Februari 1996. Fakta menunjukkan SPA menjadikan tarikh penyempurnaan sebagai tertakluk kepada dua syarat, iaitu kelulusan oleh Jawatankuasa Pelaburan Asing dan pemegang-pemegang saham defendan akan penjualan tersebut (`syarat duluan'). Bagaimanapun, melalui dokumen yang dimeterai plaintif bersekali dengan SPA (`surat sampingan'), plaintif telah melepaskan defendan dari tanggungjawabnya berkaitan dengan syarat duluan. Plaintif memeterai surat sampingan walaupun salah satu dari syarat di situ, iaitu kelulusan pemegang-pemegang saham defendan di Mesyuarat Agong Luarbiasa, adalah diwajibkan oleh s. 132C Akta Syarikat 1965 (`Akta Syarikat'). Salah faham berbangkit di antara pihak-pihak berhubung pelaksanaan tanggungjawab mereka masing-masing, berakibat, sehingga berakhirnya tarikh penyempurnaan, tiada bayaran baki ataupun penyerahan milikan kosong berlaku di antara plaintif dan defendan. Berikutnya, defendan menamatkan SPA dan merampas deposit. Pada 22 Januari 2002, plaintif telah memfail tindakan di Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur menuntut pengembalian deposit, namun tidak berjaya. Adalah pandangan yang arif hakim Mahkamah Tinggi, dalam menolak tuntutan, bahawa pelepasan di dalam surat sampingan adalah sah dan berkuatkuasa dan bahawa kegagalan melaksanakan syarat duluan tidak menyebabkan SPA menjadi tak sah. Menurut yang arif hakim lagi, penyerahan milikan kosong hanyalah suatu waranti, berakibat kegagalan defendan menyerahkan milikan kosong pada tarikh penyempurnaan bukanlah merupakan suatu pelanggaran syarat SPA. Di rayuan, Mahkamah Rayuan bagaimanapun mengakas keputusan Mahkamah Tinggi, sekaligus memutuskan bahawa keperluan wajib statutori di bawah s. 132C Akta Syarikat adalah tidak boleh diabaikan, bahawa surat sampingan adalah batal dan tidak berkesan, bahawa SPA bukan tak sah tetapi hanyalah boleh menjadi tak sah atas pilihan plaintif, dan bahawa defendan telah melanggari SPA. Berikutan itu, Mahkamah Rayuan memerintahkan supaya deposit RM1.6 juta dipulangkan kepada plaintif dan supaya gantirugi ditaksir berserta dengan faedah pada kadar 8% setahun dikira dari 10 Februari 1996 (iaitu tarikh penyempurnaan) sehingga tarikh penyelesaian, atau, sebagai ganti taksiran, supaya defendan membayar plaintif RM3.2 juta sebagai gantirugi jumlah tertentu yang dipersetujui selaras dengan peruntukan fasal 11B SPA.

Di hadapan Mahkamah Persekutuan, kebenaran merayu telah diberi atas persoalan undang-undang berikut, iaitu: (i) sama ada, mengambilkira peruntukan s. 66 Akta Kontrak 1950 (`Akta Kontrak'), Mahkamah Rayuan boleh membuat perintah supaya gantirugi ditaksir untuk plaintif atau sebagai gantinya menguatkuasakan fasal 11B SPA; dan (ii) sama ada `milikan kosong' dalam sesuatu transaksi hartanah bermakna kebebasan dari rintangan fizikal yang besar yang sekaligus mengganggu sebahagian besar dari kenikmatan hartanah. Juga jelas bahawa, dalam usahanya untuk mencabar perintah restitusi yang dibuat oleh Mahkamah Rayuan di atas, defendan, antara lain, bergantung kepada autoriti-autoriti Mahkamah Persekutuan dan Majlis Privi masing-masing di dalam Rimba Muda Timber Trading v. Lim Kuoh Wee (`Rimba Muda') dan Sajan Singh v. Sardara Ali (`Sajan Singh') .

Diputuskan (membenarkan rayuan sebahagiannya; mengenepikan perintah berkaitan taksiran gantirugi berserta dengan faedah atau sebagai gantinya pembayaran RM3.2 juta sebagai gantirugi jumlah tertentu yang dipersetujui; mengesahkan perintah pemulangan 10% deposit kepada plaintif dengan pindaan bahawa faedah hendaklah dikira dari 22 Januari 2002 hingga ke tarikh penyelesaian)

Oleh Ramly Ali HMP menyampaikan penghakiman mahkamah:

(1) Kesan sub-seksyen 3 s. 132C Akta Syarikat yang lama dan baru ke atas status seorang pihak ketiga yang berurusan dengan sebuah syarikat adalah masih sama, iaitu ia akan kehilangan manfaat kaedah statutori s. 132C(1) jika ia mempunyai `notis sebenar' mengenai pelanggaran atau ketidakpatuhan terhadap kehendak seksyen tersebut. Dengan kata lain, jika seorang pihak ketiga seperti plaintif mempunyai `notis sebenar' berkaitan ketidakpatuhan terhadap s. 132C(1), maka ia tidak boleh bergantung kepada pengecualian di bawah s. 132C(3) untuk menguatkuasa transaksi atau perjanjian tersebut. Transaksi atau perjanjian sedemikian adalah tak sah dan batal (bukan voidable) terhadap semua termasuk pihak ketiga.

(2) Surat sampingan ditandatangani dengan persetujuan dan autoriti plaintif dan dimeterai dengan sahnya. Kesan dari dapatan yang arif hakim terhadap isu ini adalah jelas, iaitu bahawa plaintif mempunyai notis sebenar mengenai ketidakpatuhan atau pelanggaran terhadap kehendak wajib statut di bawah s. 132C Akta Syarikat semasa SPA dimeterai pada 10 November 1995. Surat sampingan menunjukkan bahawa plaintif secara sedar bersetuju untuk mengabaikan peruntukan s. 132C. Surat sampingan dengan itu telah menyebabkan SPA menjadi tak sah. Pengabaian sedemikian melanggari kehendak wajib statut di bawah s. 132C dan berdasarkan s. 24 Akta Kontrak, adalah tak sah di sisi undang-undang.

(3) SPA bukan sahaja voidable atas pilihan plaintif seperti yang didapati oleh Mahkamah Rayuan, tetapi adalah tak sah dan terbatal. Oleh itu, plaintif tidak boleh membuat sebarang tuntutan berdasarkan kepada terma-terma perjanjian yang batal tersebut. SPA, walaupun sah atas permukaan berdasarkan terma-termanya sendiri, menjadi tak sah kerana dilaksanakan secara yang dilarang oleh undang-undang atau statut. Plaintif telah secara sedar terlibat dalam pelanggaran kehendak statutori di bawah s. 132C Akta Syarikat dan kerana itu tidak berhak kepada perlindungan di bawah pengecualian subseksyen 3 seksyen tersebut.

(4) Plaintif telah cuba untuk menguatkuasakan satu kontrak yang batal. SPA menjadi batal apabila keperluan wajib statutori, iaitu kelulusan pemegang saham, tidak diperolehi dan diabaikan dengan secara sedar oleh pihak-pihak semasa ianya dimeterai. Oleh yang demikian, s. 66 Akta Kontrak menjadi terpakai, yakni, bahawa defendan yang menerima suatu manfaat (10% deposit berjumlah RM1.6 juta) di bawah kontrak yang batal wajib memulangkannya kepada plaintif dari siapa ia menerima manfaat tersebut.

(5) Sementara kami bersetuju dengan Mahkamah Rayuan bahawa 10% deposit berjumlah RM1.6 juta hendaklah dikembalikan kepada plaintif, kami tidak boleh bersetuju dengan award faedah ke atas deposit "pada kadar 8% setahun dikira dari 10 Februari 1996 hingga ke tarikh penyelesaian". SPA adalah tak sah sejak dari hari ianya dimeterai bilamana pihak-pihak dengan pengetahuan dan kesedaran bersetuju kepada pengabaian melalui surat sampingan. Jumlah deposit 10% dibayar oleh plaintif kepada defendan berlandaskan latarbelakang ini dan dengan itu, ianya adalah tidak berhati budi untuk memberikan plaintif faedah dari tarikh 10 Februari 1996 (iaitu sehari selepas tarikh penyempurnaan). Jikapun faedah hendak diberikan ke atas deposit 10%, ia harus bermula dari tarikh bilamana tindakan difailkan oleh plaintif di Mahkamah Tinggi menuntut pengembalian deposit. Oleh itu, kami memerintahkan supaya faedah ke atas deposit RM1.6 juta yang dikembalikan ditetapkan pada kadar 8% setahun dikira dari 22 Januari 2002 hingga ke tarikh penyelesaian.

(6) Rimba Muda dan Sajan Singh boleh dibezakan kerana kedua-duanya berurusan dengan situasi di mana kontrak atau perjanjian yang dipertikai, walaupun didapati tak sah, telah dilaksanakan sepenuhnya oleh pihak-pihak terlibat. Keadaan dalam kes di sini adalah berbeza kerana: (i) SPA tidak disempurnakan pada tarikh penyempurnaan; (ii) satu syarat duluan wajib statutori yang diperlukan oleh s. 132C Akta Syarikat telah tidak diperolehi atau dipenuhi; (iii) pihak-pihak masih belum menunaikan sepenuhnya obligasi-obligasi mereka di bawah SPA; dan (iv) halperkara penjualan, yakni pemindahan saham-saham dari defendan kepada plaintif, masih lagi belum dibuat.

(7) Dengan membuat perintah untuk gantirugi, Mahkamah Rayuan dengan jelas telah menguatkuasakan SPA yang tak sah. Ianya sesuatu yang mantap bahawa di mana kontrak yang hendak dikuatkuasa oleh plaintif telah dilarang oleh undang-undang common atau statut sama ada secara ekpres atau tersirat, seperti yang berlaku di sini, maka tiada mahkamah undang-undang yang akan membantu memberi kesan kepadanya, lebih-lebih lagi bilamana kedua-dua pihak yang berkontrak, seperti halnya di sini, telah dengan sengaja dan relahati bersetuju dengan pelanggaran undang-undang dengan cara tidak mematuhi kehendak s. 132C.

(8) Ketidakpatuhan atau pelanggaran keperluan wajib statutori di bawah s. 132C Akta Syarikat menjadikan SPA tak sah dan tidak boleh dikuatkuasakan di sisi undang-undang. Oleh itu, persoalan "milikan kosong" sudah tidak lagi relevan. Dengan yang demikian, kami akan menjawab soalan-soalan yang dikemukakan seperti berikut, iaitu bahawa: (a) peruntukan wajib statutori di bawah s. 132C mesti dipatuhi dan tidak boleh diabaikan melalui perjanjian antara pihak-pihak; (b) ketidakpatuhan atau pelanggaran peruntukan ini akan menyebabkan kontrak menjadi tak sah dan batal dan tidak boleh dikuatkuasakan di sisi undang-undang; (c) bersandarkan kepada s. 66 Akta Kontrak, mahkamah undang-undang boleh memerintahkan pengembalian apa jua balasan atau manfaat yang diberi atau dibayar di bawah kontrak; dan (d) memandangkan kontrak adalah tak sah, mahkamah tidak boleh memerintahkan gantirugi atas pelanggaran mana-mana terma kontrak kepada salah satu pihak-pihak yang berkontrak.

Case(s) referred to:

Ahmad Udoh & Anor v. Ng Aik Chong [1969] 1 LNS 4 HC (refd)

Chase Perdana Bhd v. Md Afendi Hamdan [2009] 6 CLJ 501 FC (refd)

Cope v. Rowlands [1836] 2 M & W 149 (refd)

Harnath Kaur v. Inder Singh [1922] LR 50 1A 69 (refd)

Holman v. Johnson [1775] 98 ER 1120 (refd)

Hughes and others v. Asset Managers [1995] 3 All ER 669 (refd)

K/S Lincoln v. CB Richard Ellis Hotels Ltd [2009] EWHC 2344 (refd)

Menaka v. Lum Kum Chum [1976] 1 LNS 181 PC (refd)

National Land Finance Co-operative Society Ltd v. Sharidal Sdn Bhd [1983] 2 CLJ 76; [1983] CLJ (Rep) 282 FC (refd)

Rimba Muda Timber Trading v. Lim Kuoh Wee [2006] 3 CLJ 93 FC (dist)

Sajan Singh v. Sardara Ali [1959] 1 LNS 90 PC (dist)

Yango Pastoral Co Pty Ltd v. First Chicago Australia Ltd [1978] 139 CLR 410 (refd)

Legislation referred to:

Companies Act 1965, s. 132C(1), (3)

Companies (Amendment) Act 2007, s. 132C(1)(b), (3), (5)

Contracts Act 1950, ss. 2(g), 24, 54, 55, 66

Moneylenders Ordinance 1951, s. 8

Indian Contract Act 1872 (Ind), s. 65

Counsel:

For the appellant/defendant - Loh Siew Cheang (Yap Mong Jay with him); M/s Cheang & Ariff

For the respondent/plaintiff - Gopal Sri Ram (Harpal Singh Grewal, Amrit Pal Singh & Reny Rao with him); M/s Al Nathan

[Editor's note: For the Court of Appeal judgment, please see Code Focus Sdn Bhd v. Tan Chee Hoe & Sons Sdn Bhd [2013] 4 CLJ 1053.]

Reported by Wan Sharif Ahmad

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