Landmark decision: (From left) Ravinder, his counsel Chetan, Puspawati (face hidden) Murnie, their lead counsel Sivarasa, Fadiah and their co-counsel Farida Mohd, Sasya Lyna Abd Latif and Farhana Abd Halim smiling at the KL High Court.
KUALA LUMPUR: Five lawyers won RM75,000 each in damages over two suits against the police and Government for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.
In a landmark judgment, High Court judge Justice John Louis O’Hara ruled that their arrests were unlawful and amounted to false imprisonment. He held that the plaintiffs, who were KL Legal Aid Centre (LAC) lawyers, were denied their constitutional right to have access to legal representation.
They are former LAC chairman Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal and four women lawyers – Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Murnie Hidayah Anuar, Puspawati Rosman and Syuhaini Safwan.
“The plaintiffs were outside the Brickfields district police station not to participate in a candle light vigil but to render legal representation to their clients,” Justice O’Hara said, adding that the facts were clear from the viewing of a video tape played in court.
In the lawsuit, the lawyers said they went to the station on May 7, 2009, to provide legal representation to 14 people who were arrested for showing support to political activist Wong Chin Huat, who had been detained under the Sedition Act for alleged involvement in a campaign called “One Black Malaysia” over the political power struggle in Perak.
Justice O’Hara said Supt Judy Blacious Pereira, who was then Brickfields CID chief, and then Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid knew the lawyers were there as advocates for the 14 individuals.
The court found that the reason given by the now retired Supt Judy, known as Jude, to deny the arrested persons legal representation, as unreasonable after hearing evidence from 17 witnesses in an
Justice O’Hara awarded RM15,000 in general damages and RM60,000
in aggravated and exemplary damages to each lawyer. He ordered the defendants to pay RM60,000 in total costs to the four women lawyers and RM40,000 to Ravinder.
Ravinder’s counsel Chetan Jethwani said this was a landmark decision because it upheld the constitutional right to legal representation.
Counsel for the four women lawyers, R. Sivarasa, said the decision was significant because it was the first case which made observation on the use and abuse of Section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code on the rights of person arrested to legal representation.
In the suit filed by Ravinder on May 7, 2012, for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, breach of statutory duty and negligence, he had named the IGP, the Government, ACP Wan Abdul Bari, Jude and L/Kpl Saha’ri Ehwa as defendants.
The four women lawyers, in their suit filed on May 4, 2012, named the Government, the IGP, Jude, ACP Wan Abdul Bari and three other policemen as defendants.