The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission cannot interrogate witnesses beyond office hours, the High Court has declared in a landmark ruling.
Witnesses can only be questioned from 8.30am to 5.30pm each day, High Court (Appellate and Special Powers Division) judge Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said when allowing an application by businessman Tan Boon Wah, who had filed an originating summons on July 22 against the commission and two others, over whether witnesses could be questioned outside office hours.
Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said he would definitely appeal the ruling and that two officers have been assigned to study the decision.
In making his ruling, Justice Mohamad Ariff cited Section 30 (3)(a) of the MACC Act which states that any person ordered to attend an examination shall continue to do so from day to day, where so directed until the examination is completed.
“It is fair to conclude that the phrase ‘day-to-day’ raises an ambiguity.
“This court has to interpret that phrase so as to avoid an absurd result. The phrase admittedly is not defined anywhere in the MACC Act,” Justice Mohamad Ariff said yesterday.
He said “day-to-day,” in the context of the Act, could not mean or connote the power or ability to conduct investigations round-the-clock.
“This is also the meaning to
be ascribed to the forms of subpoena and their mention of ‘day-to-day’ until the end of proceedings. Since that phrase cannot mean an unending 24-hour day, ‘day’ must relate to normal working hours,” he added.
In the test case, Tan, who is a Kajang municipal councillor, also named MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan and Selangor MACC assistant superintendent Mohammad Hassan Zulkifli as defendants.
Tan, 39, was summoned by the MACC on July 15 to assist into investigations of alleged misuse of allocations by several state assemblymen.
He is also said to be the last person to have seen DAP political secretary Teoh Beng Hock alive at the MACC office in Shah Alam.
Teoh was found dead on the fifth floor of the building on July 16 and an inquest into his death is ongoing at the Shah Alam Coroner’s Court.
Justice Mohamad Ariff said he agreed with Tan’s contention that he had been unlawfully detained beyond office hours at the MACC headquarters on July 15 and the next day.
He ordered the defendants to pay damages to Tan for false imprisonment between 9.45pm on July 15 and 2.53am the next day.
He also ordered for an inquiry to be held by a senior assistant registrar to determine interest for the damages.