The government lost its appeal today against former Bersih 2.0 chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and 14 steering committee members over the Bersih 3 rally four years ago.
The Court of Appeal panel, headed by Justice Rohana Yusuf, ruled the High Court was right to dismiss the government’s suit. It also dismissed the government’s appeal on its main claim for over RM110,000 in compensation from Bersih 2.0.
“There is no provision under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) for the government to sue for damages in a rally,” Justice Rohana said.
Also, under the Government Proceedings Act (under Sections 3 and 39), the government cannot sue for damages under common law, she added.
Other judges in the panel included Justices Varghese George Varughese and Mary Lim Thiam Suan.
The panel, however, allowed part of the government’s appeal on the counterclaim by former Bersih committee member Wong Chin Huat.
“The appeal for the unlawful arrest and detention is allowed. But total damages awarded for pain and suffering is maintained at RM15,000,” the judge said.
The High Court last year dismissed the suit by the government against the Bersih 2.0 steering committee. It also sought compensation for damages to public property during the Bersih 3 rally on 28 April 2012.
The court ruled the government had failed to prove its claim against the Bersih committee.
The government, in its suit, had sought RM110,543 in special damages to repair police cars and other costs.
Speaking to reporters, the electoral watchdog’s chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said freedom to assembly by the citizens had been upheld. “It will have a lot of implications on future rallies.”
“This means a lot to us.”
The government cannot sue for assembling and for damages to public properties during a demonstration, she noted.
Chin added the court decision was a boost for the #TangkapMO1 rally this weekend at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
Ho Kit Yen