Appeals court reserves decision in govt’s appeal in ex-activist’s civil claim

21 Jun 2023 05:15pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX

PUTRAJAYA - The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision in an appeal by the police and the government to overturn a High Court decision declaring former anti-crime activist R. Sri Sanjeevan’s 16-day detention under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) as unlawful.

A three-member bench comprising Court of Appeal judges Datuk S. Nantha Balan, Datuk See Mee Chun and Datuk Azimah Omar heard the appeal via online today.

Justice Nantha Balan, who led the bench, said they would take some time to deliberate on the issues raised in the appeal as the matter was important.

He told senior federal counsel Norfauzani Mohd Nordin, who was representing investigating officer ASP Poonnam E Keling, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the government of Malaysia, and Sri Sanjeevan’s counsel S. Preakas that the court registrar would inform them of the decision date.

The police and the government were appealing against the High Court’s June 28, 2022 decision which allowed Sri Sanjeevan’s civil suit for false imprisonment and ordered general, exemplary and aggravated damages to be paid to him.

High Court judge Datuk Ahmad Bache also granted a declaration that Sri Sanjeevan’s detention was unlawful and a declaration that his rights under Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution had been breached by Poonnam.

He ordered damages to be assessed in a separate hearing at a later date.

Justice Ahmad found Poonnam to be liable for unlawfully detaining Sri Sanjeevan and the IGP and the government were both vicariously liable for Poonnam’s actions.

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Sri Sanjeevan, 38, former chairman of the Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch), sued the police and the government claiming that he was wrongly detained by Poonnam for 16 days between July 10 and 26, 2016 and that he was also assaulted. He sought damages for losses and injuries suffered by him.

In the appeal hearing today, Norfauzani argued that the High Court judge erred when he decided that Sri Sanjeevan was wrongly detained by relying on the decision of another High Court that had allowed Sri Sanjeevan’s habeas corpus application and released him from detention.

She said the judge misdirected himself as he relied on the habeas corpus decision without making his own findings of facts on what had led to Sri Sanjeevan’s wrongful detention.

Preakas, however, countered saying the High Court judge was correct in holding that his client’s 16-day detention was unlawful because there was no evidence that Sri Sanjeevan was involved in organised violence which justified his arrest.

He said Poonnam, in his evidence during cross-examination, confirmed that the case involving Sri Sanjeevan was not related to organised violence.

Sri Sanjeevan was arrested for alleged involvement in criminal activities on July 10, 2016 under Poca and was produced before a magistrate the following day, who issued a 21-day remand order.

Before the expiry of the 21-day remand period, Sri Sanjeevan filed a habeas corpus application to secure his release from detention. He was released after the High Court allowed his application on July 26, 2016 due to a breach of a mandatory procedure under Poca.

The government then filed an appeal to the Federal Court but subsequently withdrew the appeal.

Sri Sanjeevan then filed the civil action against the police and the government for false imprisonment. - BERNAMA

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