Swatch Malaysia is seeking compensation and the seized watches to be returned.
Swiss watchmaker Swatch has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government and Home Ministry officials to seek compensation and the return of 172 seized watches which were allegedly linked to Pride, also known as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights movement.
Malay Mail reported that Swatch wants the High Court to issue an order to quash the Home Ministry’s seizure notices in May for 172 watches worth RM64,795, and a court order to return all the seized watches within five days of the order.
In addition, the company is seeking compensation, including in the form of aggravated and exemplary damages.
On 24 June, the Swatch Group (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd filed the lawsuit via a judicial review application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.
It named four respondents; the Home Ministry chief secretary, the Home Ministry’s enforcement division’s secretary, the home minister and the government of Malaysia.
A judicial review is filed to challenge the actions or decisions of the government and public bodies.
Based on the court documents sighted by Malay Mail, Swatch claimed the Home Ministry’s officers acted illegally, irrationally, with procedural impropriety and that their actions were allegedly disproportionate and for improper purposes.
Swatch also said it was not given prior notice of any complaints or intended action against the watches, nor were they given the opportunity to be heard before the seizures.
Swatch argued that the seized watches did not cause any public or moral disruption or any violations of the law, citing that there were no incidents or disruptions since the older designs were made available in Malaysia in June 2022.
According to Free Malaysia Today, Swatch claimed the seizure is illegal as the watches are not defined as a form of “publication” under the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA).
Under PPPA, the term “publication” is used only for documents, newspapers, books, or any materials in printed form.
Since the watches have yet to be defined as a prohibited publication, Swatch maintains that the officers have no power to enter the Swatch outlets to seize them.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Swatch sent a letter on 9 June to the Home Ministry to demand the return of the seized watches but never received a reply.
Swatch said the refusal to return the items breached its constitutional rights to livelihood and property under the Federal Constitution’s Articles 5, 8, and 13.
In an affidavit to support the lawsuit, Swatch Malaysia’s country manager said the company suffered loss and damage to its trading reputation due to the seizures, and its ability to do business freely is greatly jeopardised.
After the watches seizure, Swatch said its businesses and trading figures suffered in the immediate aftermath.
The case is scheduled to come up in the High Court on 20 July and Swatch’s application for leave for judicial review is to be heard by High Court judge Datuk Amarjeet Singh Serjit Singh.
When it comes to judicial review applications, the High Court’s leave or permission has to be obtained first, before the actual lawsuit can proceed to be heard.