Legal Practice
1/12/2010 10:26:44 PM EST
Final appeal criteria for civil appeals: part II
Peter So reviews the CFA’s interpretation of the meaning of ‘civil right’ contained in the second limb of s 22(1)(a) of the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance.
Posted by LexisNexis

In the article entitled ‘Final Appeal Criteria for Civil Appeals involving Damages Claims’ published in the July 2009 issue of Hong Kong Lawyer, I argued that the Court of Final Appeal’s (CFA) decision in China Field Ltd v Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) (No 1) [2009] 2 HKLRD 135; [2009] 9 HKC 182 had the effect of opening the floodgates for ‘as of right’ civil appeals to the CFA. Recently, in WLK v TMC [2009] HKCU 1919, the CFA has clarified the effect of the China Field case and closed the floodgates by introducing another criterion to the second limb, namely, that the claims which qualify for the second limb must be proprietary in nature. In so doing, the CFA also interpreted the meaning of ‘civil right’ in the second limb as confining only to proprietary rights.

This article seeks to review the previous authorities on the interpretation of ‘civil right’ in the context of the second limb and assess whether the CFA’s approach to such construction of ‘civil right’ accorded with previous authorities and established principles of statutory interpretation.

Brief legislative history of s 22

Section 22 of the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (Cap 484) is as follows:

(1) An appeal shall lie to the Court –

(a) as of right, from any final judgment of the Court of Appeal in any civil cause or matter, where the matter in dispute on the appeal amounts to or is of the value of $1,000,000 or more [the ‘first limb’], or where the appeal involves, directly or indirectly, some claim or question to or respecting property or some civil right amounting to or of the value of $1,000,000 or more [the ‘second limb’]...

Section 22 was modelled on its predecessor, r 2 of the Order in Council regulating appeals from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal for Hong Kong to His Majesty in Council made on 10 August 1909 (Order in Council), which governed appeals to the Privy Council prior to the handover in 1997. Rule 2(a) of the Order in Council is set out as follows for comparison:

Subject to the provisions of these Rules, an Appeal shall lie –

(a) as of right, from any final judgment of the Court, where the matter in dispute on the Appeal amounts to or is of the value of $5,000 or upwards, or where the Appeal involves, directly or indirectly, some claim or question to or respecting property or some civil right amounting to or of the value of $5,000 or upwards...

The statutory monetary value in r 2(a) was successively raised to meet the changing social and economic situations.

The wording of s 22 is almost identical to that of r 2(a) of the Order in Council. As such, it will be instructive to review some of the cases decided prior to the handover in 1997 and those decided by the CFA after 1997 in relation to the interpretation of ‘civil right’ in order to understand the proper ambit of the second limb.

Miers v Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club

In Miers v Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club [1983] 2 HKC 224 (and the appeal to the Privy Council which was allowed in Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club v Miers [1983] 1 WLR 1049), Miers’ licence to ride in horse racing was refused by the Jockey Club and he brought judicial review proceedings against the club. Miers’ action was dismissed in the first instance and on appeal, and he sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council on various grounds; amongst those was that Miers claimed that an appeal lay as of right under the second limb of r 2 of the Order in Council on the basis that he had a ‘civil right’ to work at his chosen profession for that racing season. The Court of Appeal by a majority (Cons JA and Power J, Fuad JA dissenting) accepted that Miers had a civil right (which was accepted to be worth more than HK$200,000 (US$26,000), being the statutory threshold at that time) for the purpose of the second limb, which, if a suitable declaration was framed against the Jockey Club, would have the effect of compelling the Jockey Club to grant Miers a licence. The majority of the Court of Appeal therefore granted Miers an automatic right of appeal to the Privy Council.

Fuad JA (in dissenting) considered that Miers’ civil right was merely a right to be given a fair hearing before the stewards of the Jockey Club in accordance with the rules of natural justice and not a right to licence, and no monetary value could yet be put on this right. In particular, Fuad JA commented on the meaning of ‘civil right’ as
follows:

“I will not be so bold as to attempt comprehensively to define what is embraced by the expression ‘civil right’. It is a very wide term and as the courts expand concepts to afford remedies to correct injustice, so do new, what might justifiably be called civil rights emerge.”

On a petition by the Jockey Club to the Privy Council for rescission of the leave to appeal granted to Miers by the Court of Appeal and for dismissal of Miers’ appeal, the Privy Council held in favour of the Jockey Club and set aside the Court of Appeal’s order granting leave. The Privy Council in essence agreed with Fuad JA’s analysis that Miers’ civil right for the purpose of the second limb was merely a right to a fair hearing. Lord Scarman on behalf of the Privy Council said in relation to Miers’ civil right as follows:

“The civil right which is involved in the appeal is the right to a hearing and a determination by the stewards which comply with natural justice. Their Lordships, therefore, turn to consider the second question which arises on the petition – the value to the plaintiff of this right.”

Moore v The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club

In a subsequent case, Moore v The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (CACV 123/1989, 26 April 1990), which concerned the interpretation of a written immunity which the Jockey Club had given to Moore, Moore argued that a breach of this right of immunity by the Jockey Club in holding disciplinary proceedings against him would result in his loss of present earnings, future earnings, prize monies and fines imposed by the Jockey Club of more than HK$500,000 (US$64,000) (being the statutory threshold at that time) and so the appeal involved a civil right of more than HK$500,000, entitling him to appeal as of right. The Court of Appeal disagreed that such civil right could be measured in monetary terms. The Court of Appeal commented on the meaning of ‘civil right’ in the second limb as follows:

“The expression ‘civil right’ is a very wide one and there can be no doubt that the contractual rights enshrined in the immunity letter in question amount to a civil right within the meaning of rule 2(a) [of the Order in Council]...”

Spruce v The University of Hong Kong

In Spruce v The University of Hong Kong (CACV 58/1991, 4 December 1991) Spruce was dismissed by the university; she applied for judicial review of that decision but was refused in the first instance and on appeal, then sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal granted leave and measured Spruce’s ‘civil right’ by reference to her annual salary of HK$450,000 (US$58,000) and her benefit of an apartment, taking it over the statutory threshold of HK$500,000. Cons VP (with whom Clough and Macdougall JJA agreed) said in relation to Spruce’s civil right:

“But it is clear, at least in my view, that Mrs Spruce has a claim to a civil right in the sense of a right to teach for reward in the University of Hong Kong: [citing Miers].”

Re Chua Chi Hing

In Re Chua Chi Hing [1992] HKCU 33; [1993] HKLY 848, Chua was a civil service pharmacist and was forced to retire following an adverse investigation report. He sought leave to apply for judicial review but was refused in the first instance and, on appeal, then sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal refused to grant leave. Cons VP (with whom Kempster JA agreed) said in relation to Chua’s civil right:

“... the direct civil right with which we are presently concerned is not Mr Chua’s right to work as a pharmacist for Government nor his right not to be dismissed except in accordance with proper procedures, but his right to apply for leave to have the judicial review in which he seeks particular reliefs ... His indirect rights are to have a judicial review (if leave be given) and not to be dismissed save in accordance with future procedures.”

Following Miers, Cons VP held that such civil rights – the direct right to apply for leave to judicial review and the indirect rights – could not be measured in monetary terms.

Similarly, Litton JA held that Chua’s civil right that was directly involved was his right to apply for judicial review and his civil right that was indirectly involved was the right to have a proper investigation of the allegation of misconduct and such right could not be measured by a monetary value.

Au-Yeung Kwok Hing v The A-G

In Au-Yeung Kwok Hing v The A-G (CACV 205/1994, 11 April 1995), the applicant was compulsorily retired from the police force and applied for judicial review of the Commissioner of Police’s decision. The applicant failed in the first instance and on appeal (by a majority), then sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal (by a majority) refused to grant leave on the basis that the applicant’s civil right could not be measured by a monetary value and no evidence had been shown that the value was over the statutory threshold. Common to both the majority and the minority was their recognition of the applicant’s civil right as something beyond a proprietary right.

Nazareth VP (with whom Bokhary JA agreed) said this in relation to the applicant’s civil right:

“However, it seems to me that the applicant’s civil right involved is the right to a rational assessment of penalty in the disciplinary proceedings. It does not seem to me that this is a right upon which any value can be put. Moreover no evidence or calculations were produced ...”

Liu JA (in the minority) said:

“Whatever the applicant’s employment relationship was, the civil right involved in the appeal is his right to remain in the [Police] Force had it not been abrogated by the punishment of compulsory retirement awarded against him ...”

It is clear from the respective judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council in Miers, Moore, Spruce, Chua and Au-Yeung (pre-handover in 1997) that ‘civil right’ for the purpose of the second limb was a term capable of bearing a wide meaning beyond merely a proprietary right.

Crocodile Garments Ltd v La Chemise Lacoste SA

The CFA Ordinance has been in operation since 1 July 1997. Until the China Field case, there was virtually no case that discussed the meaning of ‘civil right’ in s 22(1)(a). The only CFA case (the other case was a Court of Appeal case, G v G (No2) [2001] 1 HKLRD 660, which held that the right to receive maintenance payment under an agreement embodied in a court order was a civil right) which briefly gave recognition to the meaning of ‘civil right’ was Crocodile Garments Ltd v La Chemise Lacoste SA [2001] HKCU 659.

In Crocodile Garments, which concerned the question of whether the applicant was free under a contract with the respondent to apply for registration of its crocodile pictorial trade marks, the applicant argued that it had a right to appeal as of right on the basis that such freedom was a property or a civil right, which was worth over HK$1 million (US$129,000). The CFA gave the applicant leave to file evidence on the value of such property or civil right contended by the applicant. Bokhary PJ (giving the judgment of the court) said:

“But the property or civil right concerned is the right to apply for registration of the pictorial marks ... We accept that the value of registration is a legitimate starting point when trying to ascertain the value of the right to apply for registration.”

Implicit in the decision was the CFA’s recognition that ‘civil right’ in the second limb was capable of including a right to apply for registration of pictorial trade marks, something which was clearly not a proprietary right. The right to apply for registration of a trade mark in
this case was also expressly recognised and understood by Rogers VP in Delight World Ltd v The Secretary For Transport [2005] HKCU 915 to come within the meaning of ‘civil right’ in the second limb.

WLK v TMC

The facts in this case concerned proceedings in relation to ancillary relief after a couple divorced. The husband was ordered by the judge to transfer to the wife assets with a value of HK$9.2 million (US$1.2 million) and the Court of Appeal overturned the judge’s decision and ordered the husband to pay HK$37.5 million (US$4.8 million), an amount which was four times more than that ordered by the judge. The husband sought leave to appeal to the CFA.

Leave was refused in the first instance before the Court of Appeal. In response to counsel for the husband’s submission that the husband’s proposed appeal satisfied the test for the second limb laid down in the China Field case, Le Pichon JA (in [2009] HKCU 1481) giving the judgment of the court recognised the potential floodgates brought about by the China Field case if the decision was to be read and applied literally. Relying on the CFA’s remarks in para 25 of the China Field case, her ladyship nevertheless said that the matters which came within the second limb were proprietary in nature, such as a claim for specific performance to convey land or a claim to an interest in a trust. With respect, this was misreading of para 25 of the China Field case. There, Ribeiro PJ in the China Field case was merely giving two examples to illustrate the effect of the word ‘indirectly’ in contradistinction with the word ‘directly’ in the second limb. It was clearly not intended to confine the matters falling within the second limb to only proprietary rights. Further, throughout the China Field case, the CFA consistently referred to ‘property or some civil right’ or ‘property or right’ as if the term was addressing two different matters; no attempt was made by the CFA to collapse the term into one convenient term of ‘proprietary rights’.

The Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the second limb was upheld by the CFA (leave was nevertheless granted on the ‘great general or public importance’ and on the ‘or otherwise’ grounds). Essentially, the CFA clarified that the first limb and the second limb have separate criteria and the second limb does not cut across the first limb. The CFA was able to achieve such separation by (i) construing ‘civil right’ to confine to only proprietary right; and (ii) requiring the claim which falls within the second limb to be a claim to some particular property or to a proprietary right.

In summary, the criteria under the second limb as distilled from the China Field case and the WLK case are as follows:
• it is the value of the claim or question, not the value of the property or civil right with respect to which the claim or question relates, that is the determining factor;
• the value of the claim or question is clearly quantifiable on the evidence as a value of HK$1 million or more;
• the court is satisfied that its order made upon disposing of the proposed appeal would take effect by immediately conferring or imposing on the relevant parties a financial benefit or detriment in the quantified amount; and
• the claim must be a claim to some particular property or to a proprietary right of the requisite value; it is insufficient if the claim is of some other kind, say one for unliquidated damages, even if it is incidental to the enjoyment of property rights which are not themselves the subject matter of the claim.

Criticisms

Again, it is difficult to see the rational justification for according a claim to some particular property or to a proprietary right some significance over a claim to a non-proprietary right which entitles it to receive an automatic right to appeal.

The wealth of judicial authorities amply demonstrates that ‘civil right’ for the purpose of the second limb is not confined merely to proprietary rights. ‘Civil right’ as was understood by the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council prior to the handover in 1997 was capable of bearing a wide meaning including, at least, a right to a fair hearing, contractual rights, a right to teach for reward at a university, a right to apply for judicial review and a right to a rational assessment of penalty in disciplinary proceedings; and was recognised by the CFA in Crocodile Garments to include a right to apply for registration of a trade mark. It was a term which could not be comprehensively defined.

It is true that the CFA has the power to depart from the decisions of the Privy Council on Hong Kong appeals and its own previous decisions (see A Solicitor (24/7) v The Law Society of Hong Kong [2008] 2 HKLRD 576) but such power should be exercised with great circumspection and most sparingly.

Whilst recognising the CFA’s limited resources in facing a growing number of applications for leave to appeal to the CFA and the potential injustice caused to the respondent by a third bite of the cherry, it is submitted that the CFA’s approach to construction of ‘civil right’ under the second limb of s 22(1)(a) of the CFA Ordinance as confining only to proprietary rights violates the cardinal rule of statutory interpretation, namely that words should be given their ordinary and natural meaning and in accordance with the legislative intention as expressed in the language of the statute.

In HKSAR v Lam Kwong Wai [2006] 3 HKLRD 808 and (ironically) in China Field Ltd v Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) [2009] 5 HKC 231, both Sir Anthony Mason NPJ and Lord Millett NPJ warned, to a similar effect, against distorting the plain meaning of the text in a statute in a manner which achieves a result which the courts consider desirable but which does not accord with the legislative intention.

Similarly, in Chan Tin Shi v Li Tin Sung [2006] 1 HKLRD 185 Litton NPJ spoke of the importance of ‘ordinary linguistic meaning of the words used’. His lordship added: ‘Were it otherwise the relationship between the two branches of government, the legislative and the judiciary, would be a very difficult one. Great mischief could result in the courts reading words into statutes which are not there, simply to achieve a purpose which the courts claim to be desirable.’ In HKSAR v Cheung Kwun Yin [2009] HKCU 1036, Li CJ also said that ‘words are given their natural and ordinary meaning’.

Such approach to statutory interpretation has recently been echoed by Chan PJ in Akai Holdings Ltd (in compulsory liquidation) v Ernst & Young (a Hong Kong firm) [2009] 5 HKC 218 in construing s 357 of the Companies Ordinance (Cap 32) in which his lordship said ‘it is not open to the courts simply to extend scope of the legislation through judicial interpretation to cater for changed circumstances or recent developments’ which amounts to ‘an unjustified judicial usurpation of legislative power’.

Clearly, the legislative intention as expressed in the language of the second limb of s 22(1)(a) is that ‘civil right’, as is ordinarily understood, is intended to be a term with wide meaning covering various rights which could not be comprehensively defined when the CFA Ordinance was enacted or when its predecessor the Order in Council was made in 1909. If ‘civil right’ was intended by the legislature to cover only proprietary rights, then there would be no need to use two different terms in the second limb, ‘property’ or ‘some civil right’. The CFA’s interpretation of ‘civil right’ as confining only to proprietary rights has rendered the words ‘some civil right’ in the second limb otiose. Should the legislature be taken to have used redundant words in a statute? Clearly not.

Conclusion

It might well be the CFA’s wish to have the ‘as of right’ ground of appeal abolished by the legislature altogether (see A Solicitor v The Law Society of Hong Kong [2004] 1 HKLRD 214). Until this happens, the CFA should continue to interpret s 22(1)(a) in accordance with the established principles of statutory interpretation. Short of abolishing s 22(1)(a), a quicker solution is to invoke s 22(2) of the CFA Ordinance by the Chief Executive in Council to raise the statutory threshold.

There must be a limit to how narrowly a word can be construed without offending its ordinary and natural meaning. The CFA has
exceeded this limit in the WLK case. At the time of writing this article, the Court of Appeal in Koon Wing Yee v Insider Dealing Tribunal [2009] HKCU 2015 has followed (or was bound to follow) the
CFA’s interpretation of the meaning of ‘civil right’ in the WLK case. This is an unhealthy development of the case law. It is hoped that the
CFA will revisit this decision in the future.


Peter So
Senior Associate
Lovells
peter.so@lovells.com


民事上訴之最終上訴準則:第二部分
蘇子敏律師討論了終審法院對《終審法院條例》第22(1)(a)條第二部分所述的「民事權利」的解釋,並指在近期的WLK案件中,法院違反了解釋法律的基本原則。

本人刊登在2009年7月號的《香港律師》的一篇題為《涉及損害賠償申索的民事上訴之最終上訴準則》的文章,指出終審法院在China Field Ltd v Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) (No 1) [2009] 2 HKLRD 135; [2009] 9 HKC 182一案的裁決,會開啟了以「當然權利」為由,向終審法院提出民事上訴的訴訟閘門。然而,終審法院最近在WLK v TMC [2009] HKCU 1919案件中已澄清了China Field一案的影響,並藉著對《終審法院條例》(第484章)第22條第二部分訂立一項準則而將訴訟的閘門關上。意謂:符合第二部分條件的申索,在性質上必須具有所有權權益。終審法院的此舉,亦同時將第二部分所指的「民事權利」的意思,解釋為只局限於所有權權利。

本文旨在根據第二部分的文意,查看以往的案例對「民事權利」一詞作如何詮釋,並評估終審法院這一詮釋「民事權利」的方法,是否符合以往的判例和既定的法律解釋原則。

第22條的訂立

《終審法院條例》(第484章)第22條規定:

(1) 在以下情況下,可向終審法院提出上訴─

(a) 如上訴是就上訴法庭就任何民事訟案或事項所作的最終判決而提出的,而上訴爭議的事項所涉及的款額或價值達$1,000,000或以上,[「第一部分」],或上訴是直接或間接涉及對財產的申索或有關財產的問題,或直接或間接涉及民事權利,而所涉及的款額或價達$1,000,000或以上,則終審法院須視提出該上訴為一項當然權利而受理該上訴; [「第二部分」]⋯

上述的第22條,是參照於1909年8月10日頒發的《樞密院令》第2條而制定,後者是就自香港最高法院或上訴法庭向英皇提出上訴而作出規定,以規管1997年香港主權移交前向樞密院所提出的上訴。現將該《樞密院令》第2(a)條載列如下以供比較:

在受本規則條文的規限下,可就以下的情形提出上訴─

(a) 如上訴是就法院的任何最終判決而提出,而上訴爭議的事項所涉及的款額或價值達5,000元或以上,或上訴是直接或間接涉及對財產的申索或有關財產的問題,或直接或間接涉及某些民事權利,而所涉及的款額或價值達5,000元或以上,則須視提出該上訴為一項當然權利而受理該上訴⋯

第2(a)條所規定的法定金額已相繼提高,以應付不斷轉變的社會及經濟情況。

《終審法院條例》第22條的措詞,與《樞密院令》第2(a)條的幾乎相同。因此,本文將討論一些在1997年香港回歸以前,以及終審法院在1997年以後,就「民事權利」一詞的含義而作出裁定的案件,以了解第22條第二部分的正確適用範圍。

Miers v Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club案

Miers v Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club [1983] 2 HKC 224一案中(以及在Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club v Miers [1983] 1 WLR 1049一案,允許向樞密院提出上訴),Miers就其被香港賽馬會拒絕批准出賽而提出司法覆核。Miers的訴訟在原訟法庭和上訴法庭被駁回,他提出各項理由,要求獲准向樞密院提出上訴;而其中的一項理由是,根據《樞密院令》第2條第二部分,Miers聲稱他享有提出上訴的當然權利,原因是他享有在該賽季於其選擇的專業中工作的「民事權利」。上訴法庭以多數(Cons JA及Power J,Fuad JA 持異議) 接納Miers所提出的理由,即他根據第二部分的規定乃享有民事權利(價值超過當時的法定門檻—20萬港元(2.6萬美元)),而假如法庭據此作出合適的宣告,將可強制賽馬會批准Miers出賽。上訴法庭因此以大多數授予Miers向樞密院自動提出上訴的許可。

持異議的Fuad JA認為Miers所享有的民事權利,僅僅是有權根據自然公正原則獲得賽馬會管理層的公平聆訊,而並非批准出賽的權利,而這一權利不能轉化為金錢價值。特別是,Fuad JA就「民事權利」的意思作出評論如下:

「我不會如此冒昧地試圖廣泛界定「民事權利」一詞的含義。這是一個內容非常寬泛的用詞,而當法院意圖擴展這一概念,以提供補救方法來糾正不公正的情況時,便出現可合理地稱為民事權利的東西。」

賽馬會向樞密院提出呈請,要求撤銷上訴法庭授予Miers提出上訴的許可,和駁回Miers所提出的上訴,樞密院裁定賽馬會勝訴,並撤銷了上訴法庭批准Miers提出上訴的頒令。樞密院基本上同意Fuad JA所作的分析,即就第二部分而言,Miers的民事權利僅僅是有權獲得公平的聆訊。Lord Scarman代表樞密院就Miers的民事權利作出評論如下:

「本上訴所涉及的民事權利是聆訊和獲得管理層以符合自然公正的原則來作出裁定的權利。法庭因此轉而考慮呈請中的第二個問題—這項權利對原告人所具有的價值。」

Moore v The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club案

在隨後的Moore v The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (CACV 123/1989, 26 April 1990)案件中,涉及香港賽馬會授予Moore的書面豁免的解釋;Moore指賽馬會違反了這項豁免權利,向他提起紀律程序,而這會令他蒙受目前收入、未來收益、獎金等各項損失,以及賽馬會對他作出的超過50萬港元的罰款(即當時的法定門檻),故該上訴所涉及的民事權利乃超越50萬港元(6.4萬美元),因而他有當然權利提出上訴。上訴法庭不同意該民事權利可以藉金錢來衡量。上訴法庭對第二部分所述的「民事權利」的意思作出如下的評論:

「『民事權利』具有非常廣泛的含義,毫無疑問,該豁免函所述的合約權利,乃構成[《樞密院令》] 第2(a)條所述的民事權利,⋯」

Spruce v The University of Hong Kong案

Spruce v The University of Hong Kong (CACV 58/1991, 4 December 1991); [1991] HKLY 830一案中,Spruce 被大學開除,而她就大學的這一決定提出司法覆核申請。在原訟法庭和上訴法庭的程序中,Spruce的申請均被駁回,她要求向樞密院提出上訴,上訴法庭予以批准,並將Spruce的45萬港元(5.8萬美元)年薪及住房福利列入考慮範圍,故Spruce的「民事權利」乃超過50萬港元的法定門檻。Cons JV (Clough和Macdougall JJA同意)就Spruce的民事權利作出評論稱:

「但很明顯,至少在我看來,Mrs Spruce有權提出享有民事權利的聲請,即是在香港大學任教並獲得報酬的權利:[引述Miers]。」

Re Chua Chi Hing案

Re Chua Chi Hing [1992] HKCU 33一案中,Chua 是一名政府藥劑師,而他在一個不利於他的調查報告發表後被強迫退休。他要求獲准提出司法覆核申請,但在原訟和上訴程序中均被拒絕,他要求獲准向樞密院提出上訴。上訴法庭拒絕授予許可。ConsVP (Kempster JA同意) 就Chua的民事權利作出評論稱:

「⋯我們目前關心的直接民事權利,並非 Mr Chua作為政府藥劑師的權利,也不是除非按照適當程序否則不被解僱的權利,而是他為尋求特定濟助而提出司法覆核許可申請的權利....而他的間接權利是進行司法覆核的權利(如獲得批准),並且若非按照將來程序,不得被拒絕。」

Miers一案後,Cons VP裁定該等民事權利—申請司法覆核許可的直接權利和間接權利—不能以金錢來衡量。

同樣,Litton JA裁定Chua所直接涉及的民事權利,是他有權申請司法覆核,而他間接涉及的民事權利,是就所指稱的不當行為進行適當調查的權利,而這一權利並不能藉金錢來衡量其價值。

Au-Yeung Kwok Hing v The A-G案

Au-Yeung Kwok Hing v The A-G (CACV 205/1994, 11 April 1995 HKCU 29)一案中,申請人被強迫自警隊退休,他就警務處處長的該項決定提出司法覆核申請。申請人在原訟和上訴程序中均敗訴(以多數),
他要求獲准向樞密院提出上訴。上訴法庭(以多數)拒絕授予許可,理由是申請人的民事權利不能藉金錢價值來衡量,且並沒有證據證明該價值超過了法定門檻。但案中在多數一方的法官以及在少數一方的法官均承認,申請人所享有的民事權利在某程度上乃超越所有權權利。

Nazareth VP (Bokhary JA同意) 就申請人的民事權利作出評論稱:

「然而在我看來,申請人所涉及的民事權利,是在有關紀律程序中,獲得對懲處作出合理衡量的權利。在我看來,這並非是一項可以確定任何價值的權利...而且亦沒有任何證據或計算過程被提出⋯」

Liu JA(少數)稱:

「不論申請人的僱傭關係為何,上訴所涉及的民事權利,乃若非他因著所施加予他的強迫退休懲處,他享有留在[警察]部隊的權利⋯」

顯然,從上訴法庭和樞密院在Miers、Moore、Spruce、Chua及Au-Yeung(1997年香港回歸前)等案件的判決中,清楚顯示就第二部分而言,「民事權利」具有廣泛的含義,而不僅僅是所有權權利

Crocodile Garments Ltd v La Chemise Lacoste SA案

《終審法院條例》自1997年7月1日起實施。在China Field一案以前,幾乎沒有任何案件曾討論第22(1)(a) 條所述的「民事權利」的含義。唯一對「民事權利」的意思有簡單提及的終院案例是Crocodile Garments Ltd v La Chemise Lacoste SA [2001] HKCU 659(另一宗是上訴法庭的案例G v G (No 2) [2001] 1 HKLRD 660,案中裁定根據包含於一項法庭命令中的協議,接受贍養費支付的權利乃民事權利)。

Crocodile Garments一案所涉及的問題,是申請人根據其與答辯人簽定的合約,是否有權申請鱷魚圖案商標的註冊,而申請人認為它有當然權利提出上訴,原因是這一項權利是一項財產或民事權利,價值超過100萬港元(12.9萬美元)。終審法院容許申請人就所爭議的財產或民事權利的價值提出證據。終審法院常任法官包致金(頒下終院的判決)稱:

「但有關的財產或民事權利,是申請圖案商標註冊的權利⋯我們同意,當試圖確定申請註冊權利的價值時,該項註冊的價值是一個合理出發點。」

該項裁決所隱含的一點是,終審法院承認第二部分所述的「民事權利」,可以包括申請將圖案商標註冊的權利,而這顯然不是一項所有權權利。本案中關於申請商標註冊的權利,在Delight World Ltd v The Secretary For Transport [2005] HKCU 915一案中,也為上訴法庭副庭長羅傑志所明確承認,以及理解為是在第二部分所指的「民事權利」範圍內。

WLK v TMC案

本案是關於一對夫婦在離婚後的附屬濟助相關程序。法官下令丈夫須將價值920萬港元(120萬美元)的資產移交給妻子,但上訴法庭推翻了原審法官的裁定,命令丈夫須支付3750萬港元(480萬美元)給其妻子,是原審法官所命令的4倍。丈夫要求獲准向終審法院提出上訴。

上訴法庭拒絕接納該名丈夫的申請。其代表律師提出,丈夫擬提出的上訴,符合China Field案件中所述的第二部分驗證,而上訴法庭法官郭美超(在[2009] HKCU 1481)在所頒下的法庭判決中,承認假如要將China Field案件的裁決按字面來解讀和適用的話,可能會導致訴訟的閘門大開。她倚據終審法院在China Field一案第25段所作的評論,指第二部分所述的事項實屬所有權權益性質,例如﹕土地轉易的特定履行,或是就信託權益而提出的權利主張。容我冒昧地說,這是對China Field案第25段的誤讀。事實上,終審法院常任法官李義在China Field案件中只是提出兩個例子,說明在第二部分中,「間接」一詞與「直接」一詞的對照區別。這顯然並非有意將第二部分的事項限定在所有權權利的範圍內。此外,在整個China Field案例中,終審法院再三提及「財產或某些民事權利」或是「財產或權利」,猶如該詞是針對兩種不同事項,而終審法院也並沒有為了方便而試圖將該詞轉化為「所有權權利」。

上訴法庭對第二部分的解釋,獲得終審法院的支持(然而許可的授予,是關乎「重大或公眾重要性」,以及基於「或其他」的理由)。終審法院闡明,第一部分和第二部分基本上具有各自的標準,而第二部分並沒有跨越第一部分。終審法院可以藉以下方式來實現這種區別:(i)解釋「民事權利」為只局限於在所有權權利的範圍;及(ii)規定在第二部分範圍內的主張,必須為針對某些特定財產或所有權權利的主張。

總括而言,從China FieldWLK這兩宗案例所總結的在第二部分下的準則為:
• 作為決定性因素的是申索或問題的價值,而不是與該申索或問題有關的財產或民事權利的價值;
• 根據證據,申索或問題的價值可清晰地量化為相當於100萬港元或以上的價值;
• 法庭信納,法庭就處理所提出的上訴而頒發的命令,可藉立即賦予各有關方被量化的經濟利益或所蒙受的損害而生效;及• 有關的申索,必須是針對該等符合所須價值的特定財產或所有權權利而提出;倘該申索是屬於其他類別,例如是未經算定的損害賠償,那將會是並不充分的,即使其為一項在申索標的以外的財產權之附帶權利。

批評

再一次地,我們很難看到有任何合理理由,將某些特定財產或所有權權利凌駕於可以享有自動提出上訴權利的非所有權權利。

從大量的司法判例可以充分說明,第二部分所述的「民事權利」並不是僅限於所有權權利。按上訴法庭和1997年香港回歸前的樞密院的理解,「民事權利」一詞有廣泛的含義,其中至少應包括獲得公平審訊的權利、合約權利、任教大學並獲取報酬的權利、申請司法覆核的權利,以及在紀律程序中合理評估懲處的權利﹔並在Crocodile Garments一案中,獲終審法院確認為包括申請商標註冊的權利。因此,它乃一個不能被全面界定的用詞。

的確,終審法院有權不依循樞密院對香港上訴案件所作的裁決,以及它自己以前所作的裁決(參見A Solicitor (24/7) v The Law Society of Hong Kong [2008]2 HKLRD 576),但這一項權力應當十分慎重和有節制地行使。

縱使我們必須承認,終審法院的資源有限,但卻需要面對不斷上升的上訴許可申請,而再度翻案也會對答辯人造成不公,但必須指出的是,終審法院根據《終審法院條例》第22(1)(a)條第二部分,將「民事權利」解釋為只局限於所有權權利的做法,乃違反了解釋法律的基本原則,即是應賦予有關字詞其一般和自然含義,並遵循該法例的文字所表達
的立法原意。

HKSAR v Lam Kwong Wai [2006] 3 HKLRD 808及(諷刺地)在China Field Ltd v Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) [2009] 5 HKC 231等案件中,終審法院非常任法官梅師賢和苗禮治嚴厲批評法庭對法規文意的正常意思所作的歪曲,以期實現所欲達至的但與立法原意並不相符的結果。同樣,在Chan Tin Shi v Li Tin Sung [2006] 1HKLRD 185一案中,終審法院非常任法官列顯倫亦談到「所使用的文字的一般語義」之重要性。他補充說:「若情況相反,則立法和司法這兩個政府部門之間的關係將會陷入一個困難局面。其所可能導致出現的危害,是法庭為了達成其聲稱是合宜之目的,而將本來沒有的意思加進法律條文之中」。在HKSAR v Cheung Kwun Yin [2009] HKCU 1036一案中,終審法院首席法官李國能亦表明「應給予文字其自然和通常的含義」。

以這種方式對法律進行解釋,終審法院常任法官陳兆愷最近於Akai Holdings Ltd (in compulsory liquidation) v Ernst & Young (a Hong Kong firm) [2009] 5 HKC 218一案中,在解釋《公司條例》(第32章)
第357條時作出了評論。他說:「法庭不應藉司法解釋而擴大法律的適用範圍,以應付環境變化或近期的事態發展」,而此舉亦會構成「司法對立法權的不合理侵佔」。

顯然,根據第22(1)(a)條第二部分的文字所表達的立法原意,「民事權利」一詞按通常的理解,是一個具有廣泛含義並包含各項權利的用語,於《終審法院條例》制定時 (或其前身《樞密院令》在1909年頒發時) 並未能全面地加以界定。倘立法機關的目的,是「民事權利」只涵蓋所有權權利,那便沒有必要在第二部分使用兩個不同的用語:「財產」或「某些民事權利」。終審法院若將「民事權利」解釋為只是局限於所有權權利,這便會令第二部分所述的「某些民事權利」淪為多餘。立法機關應否被視作在法規中說了多餘的話?明顯是不可以。

結論

終審法院可能希望由立法機關將「當然權利」的上訴理由廢止 (參見A Solicitor v The Law Society of Hong Kong [2004] 1 HKLRD 214)。但在此之前,終審法院應繼續按照法律解釋的既定原則來解釋第22(1)(a) 條。與其廢除第22(1)(a)條,一個較快的解決辦法,便是由行政長官會同行政會議援引《終審法院條例》第22(2)條來提高法定門檻。

要將一個字詞的意思收窄,但又不致侵害其一般和自然含義,所收窄的範圍便必須有一個限度,而終審法院在WLK案件中已超越了這一個限度。在撰寫本文時,上訴法庭在Koon Wing Yee v Insider Dealing Tribunal [2009] HKCU 2015一案中,遵循了(或是被迫遵循)終審法院在WLK一案對「民事權利」的詮釋,這對判例法而言是一個不健康的發展。寄望終審法院在未來會重新審視這一裁決。

 

蘇子敏
Senior Associate
路偉律師行
peter.so@lovells.com


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