In a landmark ruling, the High Court has ruled that the Attorney-General of Malaysia, who holds public office, cannot escape suits when they involve allegations of power abuse.
“I am afraid that the notion of absolute immunity for a public servant, even when mala fide or abuse of power in the exercise of their prosecutorial power is alleged, is anathema to modern day notions of accountability,” judicial commissioner Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera said today.
He made the remark in dismissing Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s (pic) attempt to strike out suits citing him for abuse of power and misconduct.
Former top police officer Datuk Ramli Yusuff and senior lawyer Rosli Dahlan last November filed suits against Gani and several others for, among others, alleged malicious prosecution over corruption charges.
The courts have cleared them of the charges.
Both plaintiffs are now claiming damages to the tune of about RM176 million.
Vazeer, a former practising lawyer before being made a judge, said he agreed that deliberate abuse of power by those holding a public office was misfeasance in public office.
“Such a tortious act can arise when an officer actuated by malice, for example, by personal spite or a desire to injure for improper reasons, abuses his power.
“This is keeping with developments in modern jurisprudence that absolute immunity for public servants has no place in a progressive democratic society,” he added.
The A-G and two other officers from the A-G’s Chambers were, among others, named in the respective suits filed by Ramli and Rosli last November.
The three had sought to strike out the suits on the grounds that they should be immune to such action in carrying out their prosecution powers.
Ramli, in his RM128.5 million suit last year, had also named former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan and 10 others for wrongfully bringing two charges against him.
Rosli in his suit is claiming more than RM47 million for conspiring to arrest and charge him in court over an alleged failure to declare his assets.
Rosli named Gani, Musa and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed in their personal capacities.
The lawyer has described Gani’s alleged role behind the malicious prosecution.
Both cases will now proceed for hearing, with Vazeer fixing June 18 for case management.
Rosli said that public authorities who abused their powers have been “insulated” from prosecution for “far too long” by using the Public Authorities Protection Act.
“Today, a brave judge has declared that absolute prosecutorial immunity is anathema to the modern concept of democracy. That is a powerful statement to remind public authorities of the duty of accountability,” he told reporters after the verdict.
Ramli, a former commercial crime investigation department (CCID) chief, agreed that the judge had shown courage in striking out the applications by all the defendants.
“I did not do it for myself but for the Royal Malaysian Police Force and to protect senior government officers from being victimised,” said the retired cop. – April 11, 2014