PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court here today maintained the RM2.78 million in damages (excluding interest) awarded to five former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees over their unlawful detention in 2001 after dismissing the appeal by the police and government to reduce the quantum.
A five-man panel, chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision on Dec 11, 2014 to award that sum in damages, excluding interest, to Batu MP Tian Chua, social activist Hishamuddin Rais, Hulu Klang assemblyman Saari Sungib, Badaruddin Ismail and former PKR Supreme Council member Badrulamin Baharom.
Outside the court, one of their lawyers, Ho Kok Yew, said his clients were expected to receive the total award of damages of RM5.16 million, inclusive of interest and costs.
The panel, also comprising Federal Court judges Ahmad Maarop, Abu Samah Nordin, Ramly Ali and Zaharah Ibrahim, ordered former Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai, the home ministry and the government to pay RM30,000 in costs to the five for proceedings in the Federal Court.
Norian, the home ministry and the government had conceded liability over the unlawful detention at the Court of Appeal which subsequently allowed part of their appeal to reduce the quantum of damages for each of the five over their detention, from RM15,000 per day to RM10,000 for 41 days and 54 days.
That court (Court of Appeal) also upheld the High Court decision which had ordered Norian, the home ministry and the government to pay RM30,000 in aggravated damages per person, totalling RM150,000.
It also maintained a High Court order to award the former detainees a total of RM100,000 over defamatory words allegedly uttered by Norian in April 2001 during a press conference in relation to the detention.
The five men sued Norian, the home ministry and the government for unlawful detention under the ISA and for defamation.
They were arrested in relation to a Black 14 rally on April 14, 2001 to mark the second anniversary of the conviction of PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim for abuse of power.
On Oct 2, 2012, the High Court ruled in favour of the five men, awarding about RM4 million, excluding interest and also awarded 8% interest from the date the civil suit was filed until the date the court delivered the judgement and 5% interest after judgement on the amount of damages from the date of judgement until full payment.
The Court of Appeal reduced the amount excluding interest to RM2.78 million.
Earlier, Senior Federal Counsel Kamal Azira Hassan representing the appellants argued the five men should be compensated but the amount should be adequate and not excessive.
He said the court should apply the principle of progressive reducing scale and not on a flat scale in assessing the damages to ensure that a reasonable and fair compensation be paid.
At that juncture, Malanjum said: “You are putting a value on a person’s freedom; to me it is priceless.
“A clear message should be sent, otherwise they keep repeating it, so it has to be a deterrent.”
Lawyer Ranjit Singh said the five had to live in deplorable conditions during their detention and said the High Court judge who had the audio visual advantage should decide on the quantum of damages.