PUTRAJAYA: In another landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a public independent inquiry must follow cases of custodial death.
The decision was made in the case involving suspected car thief A. Kugan, who died while in police custody five years ago.
In a landmark ruling on June 26 last year, the High Court had awarded Kugan’s family RM801,700 in damages after finding police and the Government liable for his death while being remanded.
Yesterday, Court of Appeal judge Justice David Wong Dak Wah, who read out a summary of the Appeal Court’s decision, said there should be zero tolerance to custodial deaths in remand centres in the country.
He said remand prisoners were innocent until convicted in a court of law and, like other citizens, were entitled to their basic human rights during their lawful detention.
He said the panel found that the need to hold an inquiry was consistent with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The family of the deceased is also entitled to know the truth as to what happened during the detention. That is their intrinsic right,” he said in deciding on the appeals by the Government and police against the High Court’s decision to award the RM801,700 in damages to Kugan’s family.
He said common sense and common decency demanded that a full public inquiry be initiated to serve both the private and public interests in a manner demanded by civil society.
On Jan 13, 2012, Kugan’s mother N. Indra filed a RM100mil suit seeking damages over alleged negligence, assault, false imprisonment and misfeasance of public office as well as breach of statutory duties.
Indra, 47, had named then Selangor police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who is now Inspector-General of Police, former constable V. Navindran, former Subang Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar (deceased),
the Inspector-General of Police and the Government as defendants.
The panel, chaired by Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, affirmed the High Court ruling on all important parts but set aside an award of RM100,000 given to the family over false imprisonment. In the coram was Justice Mah Weng Kwai.
Justice Wong said the ruling was made due to the fact that Malaysia did not have an ombudsman or an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission despite the recommendation of a Royal Commission for Police Reform (2005).
“In the case before us, the intention of the plaintiff is clear and that is to hold the defendants responsible and accountable for their unlawful action as public officers,” he said.