KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has allowed an appeal by a trader and a lorry driver to have jewellery worth RM50,000 returned to them. The jewellery had been seized by police on suspicion they were proceeds from unlawful drug sales.
The court allowed the appeal as the government had only referred to the claim by P Tilagavathy and R Navanithan a few days after the mandatory 14-day deadline under the Dangerous Drugs (Forfeiture of Property) Act 1988 expired.
The referral was made on March 1, 2018, after deadline was on Feb 27.
Both the appellants, represented by Grace Nathan, filed their claim well within the three-month period following the seizure as required by law.
Judicial commissioner Ahmad Shahrir Mohd Salleh said the law set the tone for the statutory deadline with the word “shall”.
“The word ‘shall’ in section 32(2) of the Act creates a mandatory duty in light of the fact that it affects the rights to property which is guaranteed under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution,” he said in his 33-page judgment .
Shahrir said the 14-day deadline was a form of check and balance to guard against any abuse of the wide powers conferred by the law, and to preserve and guard against any transgression of the rights to property.
He said he was of the view that any encroachment into such rights as enshrined in the constitution should not be defeated on mere technical grounds.
“Any blatant disregard of the constitutional guarantee shall not find support in any manner, even more so when it is done before the court,” he said.
Shahrir said the Sessions Court should not have heard the matter since the reference from the deputy public prosecutor was invalid.
“Any attempt by the Sessions Court to purportedly exercise its powers under subsection (3) (of the law) would be invalid,” he said.
During a drug bust in Setapak on Nov 12, 2018, police arrested Tilagavathy’s husband, N Loganathan, and subsequently seized properties, including the jewellery, from him, believed to be proceeds from drug sales.
The Sessions Court, in dismissing the duo’s claim, said they did not prove their case on the balance of probabilities and ruled the seizure as lawful.
Deputy public prosecutor Fatin Hanum Abdul Hadi appeared for the prosecution.