Court of Appeal says MACC can now interrogate witnesses or suspects after 4pm

By M. Mageswari, The Star

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commi-ssion (MACC) has the right to interrogate witnesses beyond office hours, reversing the Nov 19 landmark ruling by a High Court.

Court of Appeal Judge Justice Hasan Lah, who sat with Justice Ahmad Maarop and Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad, said the decision was unanimous.

In the judgment yesterday, Justice Hasan said nothing in the provision of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act said that investigations could only be carried out during working hours.

Justice Hasan said the three-man panel could not agree with the trial judge over the interpretation of Section 30(3)(a) of the Act.

The section states that “a person to whom an order has been given shall attend in accordance with the terms of the order to be examined, and shall continue to attend from day to day where so directed until the examination is completed”.

“We are of the view that Section 30(3)(a) of the Act comprises two parts as submitted by Senior Federal Counsel Amarjeet Singh.

“In the first part, there is no time element involved while there is nothing in the second part of the Section to restrict examination hours to only normal working hours,” said Justice Hasan after deliberating for an hour.

On Nov 19, High Court (Appellate and Special Powers division) judge Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof declared that witnesses could only be questioned by the commission from 8.30am to 5.30pm each day.

The ruling was made following a lawsuit brought by Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Wah on July 22 over whether witnesses could be questioned outside office hours.

In his originating summons, Tan also named chief commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan and the commission’s Selangor assistant superintendent Mohammad Hassan Zulkifli as defendants.

Tan, 39, was among three people who were summoned by the commission to assist in investigations into the alleged misuse of allocations by several Selangor state assemblymen.

Justice Mohamad Ariff had ordered the defendants to pay damages to Tan for false imprisonment between 9.45pm on July 15 and 2.53am the next day.

Justice Hasan in his ruling yesterday ordered Tan to pay RM10,000 in costs to the MACC.

Tan’s lead counsel, Karpal Singh said he would file leave to appeal the ruling at the Federal Court on Monday.

Later in the day, the MACC pledged to ensure the safety and well-being of all witnesses and suspects who were under the commission’s care while being questioned.

Deputy commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohammed said the Court of Appeal’s ruling yesterday would allow his officers to carry out their duties “as usual”.

“Whatever the courts decide, my officers will continue to carry out their responsibilities without being pressured by any parties.

“The commission will also ensure that all suspects and witnesses being interviewed are safe at all times while under our care.”