Govt gets to appeal RM357,500 damages in custodial death case

courtPUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today granted the police and government leave to appeal against the appellate court’s award of RM357,500 in damages to a widow over the death of her husband in police custody in 2012.

Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif, who chaired a three-man bench, allowed the application centred on a single legal question with regard to the issue of awarding exemplary damages to the deceased’s family members.

The other two judges were Federal Court judges Zainun Ali and Azahar Mohamed.

In May last year, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by the police and government over the quantum of RM200,000 in exemplary damages awarded by the High Court to the deceased’s widow N Selvi, 47, and daughter C Rita, 24.

On Jan 9, 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that the death of 47-year old lorry driver P Chandran was due to police negligence and awarded a total sum of RM357,500.

It comprised RM200,000 in exemplary damages, loss of dependency RM144,000, RM10,000 for bereavement and RM3,500 in special damages.

The police and government, however, had only appealed on the RM200,000 in exemplary damages in the Court of Appeal.

Chandran was detained by police on suspicion of being involved in an abduction case of a newborn baby.

In September 2015, Selvi and Rita filed a civil lawsuit against the seven appellants — five police officers, the inspector-general of police and the government — claiming that Chandran’s death was caused by their negligence and that their conduct amounted to public misfeasance and breach of the deceased’s constitutional rights.

On Jan 16, 2015, coroner Ahmad Bache (now High Court Judge), who heard the inquest into the deceased’s death, held that the police were responsible for the death through their omission to provide Chandran with timely medical assistance.

Lawyer M. Visvanathan, who represented the deceased’s family, confirmed that the Federal Court had granted the leave to appeal application.

He said it was a revisit of the Federal Court’s majority judgment in the A Kugan case last November, where the court ruled that the surviving family members were not entitled to receive exemplary damages as such damages could only be awarded to the living.

Senior federal counsel Alice Loke appeared for the police and the government.