PUTRAJAYA: The government wants the Federal Court to determine the legal question of whether it is liable in tort (wrongful act) under the Government Proceedings Act 1956 when a public officer commits the offence of murder.
The head of the Appellate and Trial Division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman, today urged the Federal Court to grant the government leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision to reinstate it as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the family of deceased Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Nik Suhaimi wanted the court to determine four questions of law which he said were novel questions regarding the government’s vicarious liability for the murder committed by its agents or employees.
1. Whether the government is liable in tort under Section 5 of the Government Proceedings Act 1956 when a public officer commits the offence of murder.
2. Whether murder is a cause of action under Section 7 (1) of the Civil Law Act 1956.
3. Whether the prosecution of the offence of murder by the public officer in a criminal court will render the government liable under Section 7 of the Civil Law Act.
4. Whether murder is a tort.
Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, representing Altantuya’s parents and her two sons, objected to the application for leave to appeal, saying the legal questions were not novel.
He said the government was vicariously liable as at the time, the two policemen who were convicted for Altantuya’s murder were agents of the government.
Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah, who chaired the Federal Court bench with judges Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin and Nallini Pathmanathan, adjourned the matter to Thursday.
Shaariibuu Setev, his wife Altantsetseg Sanjaa and Altantuya’s two sons, Mungunshagai Bayarjargal and Altanshagai Munkhtulga, filed the suit on June 4, 2007, claiming that Altantuya’s death had caused them mental and psychological trauma.
They named two police officers – Chief Insp Azilah Hadri and Cpl Sirul Azhar Umar – political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda and the government as defendants in the suit.
In their statement of claim, the family alleged conspiracy in Altantuya’s murder and sought damages, including dependency claims.
Razak was charged with conspiring with Azilah and Sirul Azhar to kill Altantuya, 28, in 2006 but was acquitted in October 2008 without having to enter his defence. Azilah and Sirul Azhar were found guilty in 2009.
On Aug 23, 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed Azilah and Sirul Azhar’s appeal and acquitted them of the charge but their acquittal was overturned by the Federal Court on Jan 13, 2015, following the prosecution’s appeal.
On Aug 23, 2017, the Shah Alam High Court allowed the government’s application to strike out the suit but the appellate court reversed that decision on March 14 last year and reinstated the government as a party to the suit.