KUALA LUMPUR (June 26): In a landmark decision in a death-in-custody case, A Kugan’s family won the suit against the government and the police with the High Court awarding close to RM1 million in damages.
The family’s matriarch N Indra had claimed for damages for false imprisonment, assault, negligence, misfeasance of public office and breach of statutory duties.
Kugan died while he was under police detention from Jan 14 to 20, 2009. Then 23, he was detained as a luxury car theft suspect.
Indra named then-Selangor police chief Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar as the first defendant; former police constable V Navindran (second defendant); former Subang Jaya police chief ACP Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar (third defendant) ; the Inspector-General of Police (fourth defendant); and, the government as fifth defendant in RM100 million suit filed last year.
Khalid is the current Inspector-General of Police, while Zainal has since passed away.
In his judgment, Justice Datuk V T Singham said there was sufficient evidence to establish claims of assault and negligence, citing the nature of injuries which “spoke volumes”.
Post-mortem revealed that Kugan suffered 45 external injuries and widespread internal injuries although Singham noted that Navindran could not have inflicted the injuries alone, suggesting others took part in the torture.
Singham also chastised Khalid for not clarifying his statement over Kugan’s cause of death. Khalid had previously told the media that the 22-year-old died from water in the lungs.
Khalid then kept mum after the second post-mortem results were revealed which indicated otherwise.
Singham said the Khalid should have known his version flew “across the face of truth”.
The judge, who is set to retire soon, also noted “glaring material contradictions” among Khalid and other witnesses in the investigation into Kugan’s death.
He went on to commend N Surendran – who was also a witness for the case – for pushing for a second post-mortem and established the cause of death, which could have been swept under the “blue carpet”, resulting in a “black day for justice”.
“If Khalid was transparent and had no intention of covering up, he should have been the first person to initiate a detailed investigation instead of waiting for a report to be lodged first,” Singham said.
He also noted a number of matters which he said had no reasonable explanation, including limiting the investigation to assault and battery instead of complying with the attorney-general’s request for the matter to be investigated for murder; why was Kugan brought to the lock up in Taipan USJ instead of the Petaling Jaya lock-up as stated in the arrest warrant of which constituted a contempt of court; and how was it Khalid could state that hs officers did not contravene any regulations.
Singham then called for the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to be implemented immediately in view of the sharp rise in custodial deaths.
“The suggestions must not be in cold storage,” he said.
Singham however pointed out that the acts of certain police officers did not reflect the entire force, a sentiment he expressed a few times in his more than two-hour judgement.
The police force, he stressed, were not on trial but the officers who committed the crime.
Singham then awarded the family a total of RM851,700 in cost and damages.