Ex-arbitration centre director enjoys immunity from prosecution, court rules

N Sundra Rajoo (left) with lawyers Abdul Shukor Ahmad, K Shanmuga and Baljit Sidhu at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today ruled that former Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) director N Sundra Rajoo enjoys immunity from prosecution from acts committed while in office.

Judge Mariana Yahaya said as such, the three counts of criminal breach of trust amounting to RM1 million against Sundra were quashed.

“Since the applicant is immune from suits and other proceedings, the charges are void and unlawful,” she said in allowing Sundra’s judicial review application.

She also said Sundra’s immunity could not be arbitrarily waived as this would be against the 2013 Host Country Agreement signed between Putrajaya and the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), the parent body of AIAC.

She also cited the Kuala Lumpur Regional Arbitration Centre (Privilege and Immunity) Regulations which state that any waiver of immunity can only be done by AALCO.

She said it was revealed that Wisma Putra had written to AALCO to waive Sundra’s immunity, but that this was rejected by the secretary-general.

She also said the phrase stating that former high officers are immune from suits and other “proceedings” must include civil and criminal prosecution.

She said the attorney-general’s discretionary power under Article 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution to institute, conduct or discontinue proceedings for a criminal offence is subject to judicial review.

“The power of the AG is not absolute but subject to the court’s scrutiny,” she said.

However, she said no costs would be paid for the action brought by Sundra as it was a public interest case.

Lawyer K Shanmuga, who appeared for Sundra alongside Abdul Shukor Ahmad, Baljit Sidhu and Angkit R Sanghvi, had argued that his client must be accorded protection as he was a high officer under the International Organisation (Privileges and Immunity) Act.

Shukor told reporters later that Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi would be informed of today’s ruling during case mention on Jan 21.

Sundra, who was head of AIAC from 2010 until late last year, had sought a declaration that he is entitled to protection for acts and omissions in his official capacity.

He also sought a declaration that immunity cannot be waived under the act, and that neither the current acting director nor any officer from the centre can strip him of this protection.

Sundra claimed to enjoy immunity as the centre was set up in 1978, following diplomatic correspondence between Malaysia and AALCO.