Human Rights Party (HRP) pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar was awarded RM145,000 by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today as compensation and damages stemming from his wrongful arrest and detention by police on Jan 16, 2003, at a magistrate's court in Sepang.
Judicial commissioner Rosilah Yop in her judgment dated July 29 ordered Uthayakumar to be paid RM55,000 as aggravated damages,RM50,000 for “wrongful arrest and detention” and RM40,000 for exemplary damages, with an interest of eight percent from a year since the commencement of the case.
Uthayakumar (right) had sued the government, the Royal Malaysian Police Force and 11 police officers for malicious conduct for forcing him to strip at the Sepang police station during his detention.
His arrest was ordered at the end of an inquiry by a magistrate's court into the death of a detainee in police custody, S Tharmarajah.
He had been detained to face a charge of criminally intimidating a chief inspector of police during the inquest into Tharmarajah's death.
The charge under Section 506 of the Penal Code carries a maximum jail term of seven years.
Among others, Uthayakumar had asked the court to find that "the arrest and detention of the plaintiff (Tharmarajah) for 25 hours, without a court order, violated Article 5(4) of the constitution" and that he had been subjected to “malicious prosecution”.
A moral victory against police atrocities
Lawyer M Manoharan, who represented Uthayakumar, described the judgment as a victory for them, for it showed that the police have been abusing their powers.
“I have no regret... the good thing that has happened from this is that instances of death in police custody and by (police) shooting have dropped by 90 to 95 percent, although some of us had to suffer (to achieve) it,” said Uthayakumar.
He was referring to his 18 months in detention in Kamunting, Perak, under the Internal Security Act (ISA), shortly after a massive street protest in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25, 2007, by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), of which he was one of the key leaders.
Besides Uthayakumar, four other Hindraf leaders were also incarcerated under the ISA in December 2007 for organising the mammoth anti-government rally.
“Though the civil suit victory may not involve a huge sum, it is a moral victory in the fight for justice and for those who have died in police custody,” he said.
Senior federal counsel Zureen Elina Mohd Dom and Lailawati Ali, who represented the government and the police force, filed an appeal against the judgment on Aug 26.
However, since no stay order was applied for, Manoharan said they would demand that the payment is made in the interim, until the appeal is heard.