PUTRAJAYA: The government is seeking leave of the Federal Court to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling that the police were negligent over the death of a businessman detained in a Shah Alam police lock-up five years ago.
The government said a key question that should be considered by the apex court was whether the civil court could entirely rely on the findings of a coroner for aggrieved parties to prove a negligence claim.
Putrajaya said this was one of seven questions which entitled it to have the merits of the appeal heard by the Federal Court.
Under Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, an applicant must satisfy the Federal Court that the proposed appeal contains novel legal and constitutional questions of public importance which are being raised for the first time.
Another question posed by the government is whether a coroner in an inquest proceeding, exercising its function under Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure Code, could impose a civil liability to a party.
The government also asked whether evidence given by a doctor who is not specialised in a particular field of medicine amounts to an expert opinion.
On Oct 30, a three-member bench chaired by Justice Lee Swee Seng ruled that businessman S Thanabalan’s widow, V Santhi, and father, P Vathian, had sufficiently discharged their burden of proof on the totality of evidence.
Lee, who sat with Justices Supang Lian and Azhahari Kamal Ramli, said an award of aggravated damages was justified as Thanabalan had been denied timely access to medical attention.
The award was also made due to the deplorable conditions of the lock-up which saw Thanabalan detained in a cramped cell with no access to clean water.
He said a post-mortem report certified Thanabalan’s cause of death as leptospirosis, which was normally associated with the consumption of food and water infected with the leptospira bacteria found in rat urine.
On Dec 21, 2020, coroner Rofiah Mohamad ruled that police negligence led to Thanabalan’s death.
She said forensics had confirmed that Thanabalan had myocardial bridging — a heart condition that normally would not kill anyone.
Rofiah said the detainee had possibly died at the Shah Alam police headquarters or on the way to the hospital because he was brought in dead.
The inquest into his death started in 2019. Thanabalan died in police custody on April 17, 2018.
He was allegedly detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act for 20 days.