Court rules PM and Ministers can be sued
Published on: Wednesday, November 20, 2019
By: The Edge
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PUTRAJAYA: In a landmark judgement, the Federal Court ruled that the Prime Minister (PM) and ministers are public officers, which means that they can be sued for misfeasance in public office, and the government can be held vicariously liable for any wrongdoing they committed.

The decision was made by a seven-member bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, but it was Federal Court judge Datuk P Nalini who wrote the judgment and read the summary of the unanimous decision. 

The bench answered two questions of law posed by Damansara MP Tony Pua, who is appealing a Court of Appeal and High Court decision.

The questions are: 

Is the tort of misfeasance in public office available against the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, as an individual holding public office or as a public officer? 

Can the government be vicariously liable for the acts of Datuk Seri Najib Razak if the tort is proven against him under the Government Proceedings Act 1956?

Pua had in January 2017 sued the then-PM Najib and the government for misfeasance – which means the wrongful use of lawful authority – in public office over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd fiasco (1MDB). 

The DAP national publicity secretary had alleged that Najib had abused his public office and had benefitted from receiving money from 1MDB, which are public funds.

With the decision, it corrected a decision in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Khairuddin Abu Hassan’s suit against Najib and the government on the same issue where an earlier bench upheld the Court of Appeal and the High Court’s decision that ruled the PM and members of the Cabinet are members of administration and not public officers.

Najib is presently facing 25 charges, namely four for abuse of power and 21 for money laundering in relation to 1MDB, as well as separate graft and abuse of power charges in relation to 1MDB’s former subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd and other 1MDB-related charges.

Why PM and ministers are not just ‘members of administration’.

On ruling why the PM and ministers should not be defined only as “member[s] of administration” as per the Federal Constitution, Justice Nalini said the reasoning and interpretation of these Articles 132(1) and (3) are untenable as those articles are to be construed purely in the context of, and for the purposes of, the Constitution.



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