KUALA LUMPUR: A lorry driver, who police claim was on their wanted list for alleged drug offences, was awarded RM250,000 in damages by the High Court today in a negligence suit brought against the government for breach of duty and restraining his liberty.
B Thayanantha Rao, 53, was also awarded damages for the tort of misfeasance in public office.
Judicial commissioner Johan Lee said the police were just performing their duty when arresting Rao in 2017 and 2019. He said the arrests were a result of mistaken identity, something the police were not aware of at the time.
“However, what happened during detention in 2019 was sheer negligence by the police,” Lee said in a ruling delivered online.
He said police should have investigated the matter, especially after Thayanantha had repeatedly said he was the victim of mistaken identity, and had offered proof stored on his mobile phone.
“The fact that the police did nothing and proceeded to get a remand order and later released the plaintiff (Rao) on police bail despite knowing the truth was unlawful,” he said.
As part of his ruling, Lee rectified all police records which stated that Thayanantha was wanted by the police and that he had previous convictions.
Thayanantha, who was represented by S Jayananda Rao, Gayathri Chandrakasan and Ho Xin Ying, was also awarded RM30,000 in costs.
Senior federal counsel Syahriah Shapiee represented the government.
In the suit filed in 2021, Thayanantha sought a declaration that his arrests on Dec 20, 2017 and May 10, 2019 were unlawful.
He also wanted the police to amend and update their database to remove the link on his name to Mohd Shukri Rao Abdullah, who is alleged to be involved in drug offences.
He named five policemen, the inspector-general of police and the government as the defendants.
Thayanantha said he was riding a motorcycle along Jalan Imbi at about 3.30pm on Dec 20, 2017 when police stopped him at a roadblock and asked to see his identity card.
After checking their database, police arrested him, claiming he was wanted for drug-related offences.
However, he said he was told at the Brickfields police station that although his identity card number matched that of the wanted person, he did not resemble a police photofit of the suspect. They said the wanted person had fraudulently used his identity card.
Thayanantha lodged a police report upon his release from custody.
On May 10, 2019, he was stopped again at a roadblock on Jalan Pudu and arrested by two policemen who told him he was linked to drug offences.
He explained that it was a case of mistaken identity and had lodged a police report. He showed them the report on his phone.
He was taken to the Dang Wangi police station and kept overnight and produced before a magistrate, who sanctioned a three-day remand for further investigation.
Thayanantha said the police did not inform or allow him to communicate with his family. He was only freed on police bail at about 5pm three days later.
After his release, he said, he conducted a search at the national registration department and confirmed that no other person held the same identity card number.
Based on information on the police database, he made a second report asking the police to investigate Shukri Rao for allegedly misusing his identity or identity card.