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Federal Court dismayed case took 26 years to clear

PUTRAJAYA, 22 Sept 2008: The Federal Court today expressed dismay that a wrongful dismissal case of a government servant took 26 years and six months to be disposed off and called on the authorities to consider implementation of time frames in their rules to avoid a delay in investigations in cases of this nature.

Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi presided hearing the case with two Federal Court judges, Datuk Arifin Zakaria and Datuk Hashim Yusoff.

Zaki said he regretted that the police took four years to investigate postal clerk M Senthivelu who was suspected of withdrawing monies totaling RM6,050 from 16 account holders with the Sitiawan post office before concluding not to charge him in court for a criminal offence. 

The disciplinary authority took another two and a half years to commence disciplinary action before dismissing him from service because it (the disciplinary authority) waited for the police to complete their investigations before pursuing the disciplinary action.

The courts took another 22 years – from the High Court where Senthivelu filed legal action for wrongful dismissal but was unsuccessful, the Court of Appeal which declared his dismissal unlawful upon appeal and the Federal Court hearing the authorities’ appeal – to adjudicate his suit.

Today, Senthivelu, who died in 2005, not only had to wait over 26 years for the final outcome of his legal battle but also lost his case. His daughter, Vickneswary, was substituted as the respondent in the current appeal.

Zaki commented in his judgment that the setting up of a time frame could ensure investigations be completed within the shortest time possible because delays caused anxiety and in some circumstances may cause injustice.

“I realise that everybody is busy but they should place themselves in the position of the suspect or officer under disciplinary action and their families. Perhaps if they do so, then they may appreciate how these people feel while waiting for the conclusion of their cases,” he said.

Expressing his regret that the case took a long time to be disposed off, Zaki said credit must be given to Senthivelu and his family for pursuing the case up to this stage.

Zaki made the remark in his judgement reversing the Court of Appeal’s decision declaring the dismissal order made by the disciplinary authority in 1985 against Senthivelu was unlawful.

In unanimously allowing the Public Services Commission Malaysia and the Government of Malaysia’s appeal to set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision, the quorum ruled that a delay by the disciplinary authority to institute and complete disciplinary proceedings on an employee was not a basis to hold the disciplinary action invalid.

Senthivelu brought his case up to the Court of Appeal after failing to get the High Court to rule in favour of him following the disciplinary authority’s decision to dismiss him from service. – Bernama

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