The government is held vicariously liable as it has control over public servants through their immediate supervisors.
PETALING JAYA: The government has to pay damages when policemen are found liable for civil wrongdoings as it has to take responsibility over the actions of civil servants, said a lawyer.
Ramesh Sivakumar said under the law, the government was also liable as it had supervisory powers over public servants.
He was responding to the heated debate on social media that taxpayers money was being wasted on court awarded damages to relatives of victims because of the negligence shown by civil servants.
Yesterday, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur found the police liable for the death of lorry driver P Chandran in the Dang Wangi lock-up after his medical needs were not attended to.
Judge S Nantha Balan awarded a total of RM357,000 in damages to Chandran’s widow, N Selvi, and daughter, C Rita, for negligence and abuse of public office.
Another RM50,000 was awarded as costs.
From the amount, Nantha awarded RM200,000 in exemplary damages as the police had deprived Chandran of life and liberty.
Nantha said there was negligence on the failure of the policemen to send Chandran for treatment.
Furthermore, he added the authorities did not take action against any policemen for Chandran’s death. The death was also reported to the Human Rights Commission.
Selvi and Rita filed the suit in 2014 following the outcome of an inquest which found police responsible for the death through their omission.
Chandran, 47, a father of six, was arrested on Sept 6, 2012 and held at the Dang Wangi police station lock-up for four days on suspicion of being involved in a kidnapping case.
During that period, he was not allowed to take the medication his family members tried to give him.
Investigating officers Inspector Mohd Saidon Shaari and Inspector Mahezel Md Noh, the officer in-charge of the Cheras police district, the Inspector-General of Police and the government were named as defendants.
Lawyer M Visvanathan said the Government Proceedings Act has to be amended first to directly apportion blame on government employees for failure to follow rules and regulations.
“The sad truth is that the government now uses taxpayers’ money to settle claims,” he added.
The lawyer said in Chandran’s case, the tech savvy IGP Khalid Abu Bakar did not inform the public that action would be taken against his subordinate officers following yesterday’s verdict.
Visvanathan said the Police Commission should also act against Khalid for the numerous deaths in custody and police shootings over the last few years.
He said the Court of Appeal had also upheld the findings that Khalid was negligent and abused his public office as the Selangor police chief over the death of A. Kugan while in police custody in 2009.