BREACH OF NATURAL JUSTICE: UTRA BADI A/L K PERUMAL V LEMBAGA TATATERTIB PERKHIDMATAN AWAM & ANOR  3 MLJ 676 CIVIL SUIT NO 22-322 OF 1991 HIGH COURT (PENANG)
The Malayan Law Journal
UTRA BADI A/L K PERUMAL V LEMBAGA TATATERTIB PERKHIDMATAN AWAM & ANOR
 3 MLJ 676
CIVIL SUIT NO 22-322 OF 1991
HIGH COURT (PENANG)
DECIDED-DATE-1: 30 MAY 1996
VINCENT NG J
Administrative Law – Termination of service of member of public service – Whether wording in show cause letter which contained two alternative punishments nullified the charge for want of clarity – Whether show cause letter should state which of the alternative punishments is to be used – Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Order 1980 general order 26
Administrative Law – Rights and liabilities of public servants – Right to be heard – Whether extraneous matters were considered – Whether plaintiff was given reasonable opportunity to be heard on other relevant information
Administrative Law – Right to mitigation – Dismissal or reduction in rank of public servant – Whether public servant ought to be given reasonable opportunity of being heard in mitigation before punishment is imposed – Federal Constitution art 135(2) – Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Order 1980 general order 23
The plaintiff, a hospital attendant, was an employee of the second defendant. A sample of urine taken from him was tested positive for morphine. The first defendant requested the plaintiff to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him on the ground that he was a drug addict. The charge was made under general order 26 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Order 1980 which contained two alternative punishments against him, namely to dismiss or to reduce in rank. The plaintiff gave his explanation on the charge proffered against him. The first defendant dismissed the plaintiff.
The plaintiff’s appeal to the Appeal Board was rejected. The plaintiff applied for a declaration that his purported dismissal was null and void. There were three issues before the court, ie that: (i) the wording in the show cause letter which contained two alternative punishments nullified the charge for want of clarity; (ii) the first defendant has taken into account other material information which had never been put to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on the other relevant information that appeared to have been considered in the decision making process which led to his dismissal; and (iii) that the first defendant has failed to give the plaintiff a reasonable opportunity to mitigate.
Held, allowing the plaintiff’s claim with costs:
(1) There is nothing wrong with the way the charge is worded considering
that it is in direct compliance with general order 26 and it contained all
the necessary particulars to enable the plaintiff to prepare his written
representaton in answer thereto, though, an outline of the charge would
usually suffice (see p 684D-E).
[*677] (2) There were no extraneous matters considered other than the fact that
the plaintiff’s test was tested positive for morphine. The explanation in the
first defendant’s letter that other relevant information was considered
actually referred to what the plaintiff had written in his reply to the show
cause letter and nothing more (see p 685F-G).
(3) It would be unjust to deny the civil servant an oportunity to be heard
in mitigation before punishment is imposed on him, as the punishment itself
involves a further decision-making process.The right of the plaintiff to be
heard in mitigation is implicitly encompassed in general order 23 of the
General Orders and in art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution. Consequently,
as it is common ground that the first defendant had not given the plaintiff
any opportunity to be heard in mitigation before punishment, the decision
making process pertaining thereto is fatally flawed (see pp 689D and 691A-C).
(4) In the instant case, it is beyond the ambit of a judicial review for
the court to touch on the decision itself and consider whether, if the
plaintiff was rightly found to be a drug addict he could be allowed to
continue to work in an institution such as a hospital. What has to be decided
within the court’s purview is that due to non-compliance of general order 23
of the General Orders and of art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution in the
manner in which the first defendant had made their decision on the punishment
imposed, the termination of the plaintiff’s services had been rendered
nugatory, null and void and of no effect (see pp 691H-I and 692B).
[Bahasa Malaysia summary
Plaintif, seorang atendan hospital, adalah pekerja defendan kedua. Contoh air kencing yang diambil daripadanya telah diuji positif mengandungi morfin. Defendan pertama meminta plaintif menunjuk sebab mengapa tindakan disiplin tidak patut diambil terhadapnya atas alasan bahawa dia adalah penagih dadah. Pertuduhan dibuat di bawah perintah am 26 Perintah-Perintah Am Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan Tatatertib) (Bab D) 1980 yang mengandungi dua hukuman alternatif terhadapnya, iaitu untuk dipecat atau diturunkan pangkat. Plaintif memberikan penerangan atas pertuduhan ke atasnya. Defendan pertama memecat plaintif.
Rayuan plaintif kepada Lembaga Rayuan telah ditolak. Plaintif memohon satu deklarasi bahawa pemecatannya adalah batal dan tak sah. Terdapat tiga isu di hadapan mahkamah, iaitu bahawa: (i) perkataan dalam surat tunjuk sebab yang mengandungi dua hukuman alternatif membatalkan pertuduhan kerana tidak jelas; (ii) defendan pertama telah mengambil kira maklumat material yang lain yang tidak pernah ditunjukkan kepada plaintif, dan plaintif tidak diberikan peluang yang munasabah untuk dibicarakan atas maklumat lain yang relevan yang telah diambil kira dalam proses membuat [*678] keputusan yang membawa kepada pemecatannya; dan (iii) defendan pertama telah gagal untuk memberikan plaintif peluang yang munasabah untuk pengurangan.
Diputuskan, membenarkan tuntutan plaintif dengan kos:
(1) Tidak ada apa yang salah dengan cara pertuduhan itu dibuat mengambil
kira bahawa ia mematuhi perintah am 26 dan ia mengandungi semua butir-butir
yang diperlukan untuk membolehkan plaintif menyediakan representasi bertulis
untuk menjawabnya, walaupun garis kasar pertuduhan biasanya mencukupi (lihat
(2) Tidak ada perkara yang tidak relevan diambil kira melainkan fakta
bahawa ujian plaintif telah diuji positif mengandungi morfin. Penerangan
dalam surat defendan pertama bahawa maklumat lain yang relevan telah diambil
kira sebenarnya merujuk kepada apa yang plaintif telah tulis dalam jawapan
kepada surat tunjuk sebab dan tidak ada yang lain (lihat ms 685F-G).
(3) Adalah tidak adil untuk menafikan kakitangan awam peluang untuk
dibicarakan berkaitan dengan pengurangan sebelum hukuman dikenakan ke
atasnya, kerana hukuman itu sendiri melibatkan proses membuat keputusan
selanjutnya.Hak plaintif untuk didengar berkaitan dengan pengurangan adalah
terkandung secara tersirat dalam perintah am 23 Perintah-Perintah Am dan
dalam perkara 135(2) Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Oleh yang demikian, oleh
kerana adalah diketahui umum bahawa defendan pertama tidak memberikan peluang
kepada plaintif untuk dibicarakan berkaitan dengan pengurangan sebelum
hukuman, proses membuat keputusan berhubung dengannya adalah salah (lihat ms
689D dan 691A-C).
(4) Dalam kes ini, adalah diluar rangkuman kajian semula kehakiman untuk
mahkamah menyentuh keputusan itu sendiri dan mempertimbangkan sama ada, jika
plaintif didapati seorang penagih dadah, dia boleh dibenarkan untuk
meneruskan pekerjaan di institusi seperti hospital. Apa yang perlu diputuskan
dalam skop mahkamah adalah oleh sebab ketidakpatuhan kepada perintah am 23
Perintah-Perintah Am dan perkara 135(2) Perlembagaan Persekutuan dalam cara
defendan pertama membuat keputusan telah menjadikan keputusan mereka atas
hukuman yang dikenakan, penamatan perkhidmatan plaintif telah menjadi tidak
berguna, batal dan tak sah dan tidak mempunyai kesan (lihat ms 691H-I dan
For a case on termination of service of member of public service, see 1 Mallal’s Digest (4th Ed, 1995 Reissue) para 451.
For cases on the rights and liabilities of public servants, see 1 Mallal’s Digest (4th Ed, 1995 Reissue) paras 404-452. [*679]
Cases referred to
Alan Noor bin Kamat v Inspector General of Police & Anor  1 CLJ 51
Asriyah bte Sairy v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam Malaysia Federal Court Civil Appeal No 01-41-94
Bachhittar Singh v State of Punjab & Anor 1963 AIR SC 395
C Apparao v The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Northern Range, Waltair & Anor 1958 AIR 269 And Pra
Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan & Anor v Nordin bin Salleh & Anor  1 MLJ 697
Ganesh Balakrishna Deshmukh v State of Madhya Bharat (1956) Mad Bha 172
Gangadhar Gurusiddappa v Union of India 1963 AIR Mys 193
Halimatussaadiah bte Hj Kamaruddin v Public Service Commission, Malaysia & Anor  1 MLJ 513,  3 MLJ 61
High Commissioner of India v IM Lall 1948 AIR PC 121
Hiro Lilaram Chablani v State of Hyderabad 1955 AIR Hyde 48
Ong Ah Chuan v PP  1 MLJ 64
Pancha Moorthy a/l Suppaya v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam, Malaysia Federal Court Civil Appeal No 01-40-94
Pergamon Press Ltd, Re  3 All ER 53
PP v Lee Eng Kooi  2 MLJ 322
Shamsiah bte Ahmad Sham v Public Services Commission, Malaysia & Anor  3 MLJ 364
Shri Sitaram Sugar Co Ltd v Union of India & Ors  3 SCC 223
Smt Maneka Gandhi v Union of India 1978 AIR SC 597
Sobhagmal v State 1954 AIR Raj 207
Sher Singh, Malhan, Petition er v State Madhya Pradesh 1955 AIR Nag 175 42 CN 40
State of Bihar v Abdul Majid 1954 AIR SC 245
State of Bombay v Amarsinh Raval 1963 AIR Guj 244
Syed Mahadzir bin Syed Abdullah v Ketua Polis Negara & Anor  3 MLJ 391
Tribhuwan Nath Pandey v Union of India 1953 AIR 138 Nag
Tropiland Sdn Bhd v Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai  4 MLJ 16
Vasant Pandurang Deval v The State of Bombay 1963 AIR 269 Bom
Legislation referred to
All India Services (Disciplinary and Appeal) Rules 1969 Pt IV
Evidence Act 1950 ss 91 and 92
Constitution [India] art 311(2)
Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985
Federal Constitution art 5(1), 8(1), 135(2)
Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) General Orders (Chapter D) Regulations 1969 regulation 27
Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Orders 1980 general orders 23, 26, 26(5), 33, 34, 35(1), 36, Pt II [*680]
Karpal Singh ( Jagdeep Singh with him) ( Karpal Singh & Co) for the plaintiff.
Syed Marzidy bin Syed Marzuki (Federal Counsel) for the defendants.
LAWYERS: Karpal Singh ( Jagdeep Singh with him) ( Karpal Singh & Co) for the plaintiff.
Syed Marzidy bin Syed Marzuki (Federal Counsel) for the defendants.
JUDGMENTBY: VINCENT NG J
The plaintiff was at all material times a hospital attendant in the General Hospital Penang and was an employee of the second defendant.
In this case, he is suing the defendants for the following reliefs: (i) a declaration that the purported dismissal of the plaintiff as hospital attendant Tingkatan Biasa in the General Hospital, Penang is null and void and of no effect and that the plaintiff is still a hospital attendant Tingkatan Biasa entitled to all the salaries and benefits due to him; and (ii) an inquiry to determine the salaries, emoluments and other benefits due to the plaintiff; interest and costs.
By a letter dated 31 January 1991, the plaintiff was asked to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him on the grounds that he was a drug addict as the sample of urine taken from him was tested positive on 5 May 1990 for morphine. The letter (marked ‘DP10’) is set out in full as follows:
Bahawa satu laporan telah diterima oleh Lembaga Tatatertib yang
menyatakan bahawa Tuan/En Utra Badi a/l K Perumal, Atendan Hospital
T/Biasa di Hospital Besar, Pulau Pinang telah berkelakuan melanggar
tatakelakuan dan membolehkan tindakan tatatertib diambil terhadap tuan.
(2) Lembaga Tatatertib, setelah menimbangkan segala maklumat yang
diterima, berpendapat bahawa tuan patut dikenakan tindakan
tatatertib dengan tujuan buang kerja atau turun pangkat di bawah
perintah am 26, Perintah-Perintah Am Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan
Tatatertib) (Bab D) 1980 atas pertuduhan-pertuduhan berikut:
Bahawa tuan, En Utra Badi a/l K Perumal, semasa bertugas
sebagai Atendan Hospital T/Biasa di Hospital Besar, Pulau
Pinang dalam satu ujian air kencing tuan secara mengejut
pada 5 Mei 1990 telah disahkan sebagai penagih dadah kerana
ujian contoh air kencing yang diambil didapati positif
mengandungi morfin. Perbuatan tuan menjadi seorang penagih
dadah adalah merupakan satu perbuatan yang boleh
menjatuhkan reputasi Perkhidmatan Awam dan adalah melanggar
tatakelakuan di bawah perintah am 4(2)(d) dalam
Perintah-Perintah Am Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan Tatatertib)
(Bab ‘D’) 1980.
Jika tuan didapati bersalah, tuan boleh dihukum mengikut
perintah am 36 dalam Perintah-Perintah Am yang sama.
(3) Mengikut perintah am 26, Perintah-Perintah Am Pegawai Awam
(Kelakuan dan Tatatertib) (Bab D) 1980 tuan adalah diminta
membuat satu representasi secara bertulis yang mengandungi
alasan-alasan yang tuan hendak gunakan untuk tuan membebaskan
diri tuan. Representasi tersebut hendaklah dikemukakan kepada
Lembaga Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam, melalui Ketua Jabatan tuan
dalam tempoh 14 hari dari tarikh tuan menerima surat ini.
Sekiranya tuan tidak membuat representasi tersebut dalam tempoh
masa yang ditetapkan itu, tuan akan dianggap sebagai tidak hendak
membela diri dan perkara ini akan diputuskan oleh Lembaga
Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam, Hospital Besar, Pulau Pinang
berdasarkan keterangan-keterangan yang sedia ada sahaja.
[*681] The plaintiff was given 14 days to reply from the date of receipt of the said letter.
On 7 February 1991, the plaintiff by a letter of even date (marked ‘DP12’) wrote to the first defendant giving his explanation on the charge proffered against him as follows:
Surat tuan Bil Rujukan (5) dlm HB/PP/PER/TT/1240 (SULIT) bertarikh 31
Januari 1991 telah selamat diterima dan diucapkan terima kasih.
Untuk makluman tuan, saya bukanlah seorang penagih dadah sepertimana
yang dinyatakan didalam surat tuan. Saya sekali lagi merayu di atas
jasa baik tuan untuk bersimpati dengan rayuan saya yang hina ini
untuk menjalankan ujian air kencing sekali lagi di atas diri saya.
Ujian air kencing yang dibuat pada 5 Mei 1990 besar kemungkinan
merupakan satu kesilapan teknik. Mungkin air kencing itu bukan air
Untuk makluman tuan, pekerja-pekerja di Hospital Besar, Pulau Pinang
sangat mengetahui di atas kelakuan saya dan saya bukanlah seorang
penagih dadah. Begitu juga dengan kaum keluarga saya, semuanya sangat
mengetahui bahawa saya bukan seorang penagih dadah. Saya sangat benci
pada dadah dan tidak pernah melibatkan diri dengan penagih dadah.
Saya tidak berhasrat untuk merosakan rekod perkhidmatan saya selama 27
tahun dengan Kerajaan dan tidak pernah dikenakan sebarang tindakan
tatatertib oleh Jabatan.
Kerjasama tuan di atas rayuan saya ini sangat-sangatlah diharapkan dan
disanjung tinggi dan diatas rayuan saya ini untuk menjalankan ujian air
kencing sekali lagi akan mendapat persetujuan dan pertimbangan yang
sewajarnya daripada tuan.
About one month later, on 20 March 1991, the Pengerusi, Lembaga Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam Kumpulan D Pulau Pinang forwarded to the plaintiff a letter (marked ‘DP13’) dismissing him from service wef 20 March 1991, which reads as follows:
Lembaga Tatatertib di dalam mesyuarat yang ke 2/1991 pada 20 Mac 1991
setelah menimbangkan dengan teliti pertuduhan ke atas tuan dan jawapan
yang diberi oleh tuan serta maklumat-maklumat lain yang berkaitan,
memutuskan bahawa tuan dikenakan hukuman buang kerja mulai 20 Mac 1991
mengikut perintah am 36(i) Perintah-Perintah Am Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan
dan Tatatertib) (Bab D) 1980.
(2) Mengikut Peraturan l2(1) dan l3(1) Peraturan-Peraturan Lembaga
Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam 1972 (PU (A) 48) tuan adalah dengan
ini diberi peluang untuk membuat rayuan kepada Lembaga Rayuan
Tatatertib melalui Ketua Jabatan tuan di dalam tempoh 14 hari
mulai dari tarikh penerimaan surat keputusan Lembaga Tatatertib
Soon after receipt of DP13 the plaintiff by his letter dated 26 March 1991 (marked ‘DP14’) wrote an appeal to the Lembaga Rayuan Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam, Kumpulan ‘D’. He set out in detail his grounds in the following terms:
26 Mac 1991.
Lembaga Rayuan Tatatertib Perkhidmatan Awam,
Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam,
Melalui: Saluran-saluran tertentu
Per: Rayuan terhadap keputusan Lembaga Tatatertib pada 20 Mac 1991 yang
mengenakan hukuman buang kerja
Saya dengan hormatnya merujuk kepada surat tuan bil (13) dlm
HB/PP/PET/TT/1240 (SULIT) bertarikh 20 Mac 1991 dan ingin merayu
terhadap keputusan tersebut atas alasan-alasan yang berikut:
(a) Dalam mencapai keputusan ini, pihak Lembaga tidak mengambil kira
akan alasan-alasan yang telah saya berikan ke atas tuduhan yang
dibuat terhadap saya dan dengan itu keputusan itu adalah dibuat
secara terburu- buru dan tanpa sebab-sebab yang berasas;
(b) Saya telah mengemukakan pembelaan yang kuat terhadap tuduhan ke
atas diri saya mengenai ujian air kencing di mana bukti-bukti
bertulis mengenai ubat yang dimakan oleh saya pada ketika itu
telah pun dibuktikan;
(c) Ujian air kencing secara mengejut yang dijalankan pada 7 Mei 1990
tidak dilakukan dengan sempurna dan ia menimbulkan keraguan sama
(i) air kencing saya telah diperiksa atas nama saya; atau
(ii) air kencing orang lain telah diuji atas nama saya.
(d) Semasa ujian air kencing dijalankan, saya hanya diberi sebuah
botol yang kosong tanpa sebarang lebel padanya dan dengan itu ada
kemungkinan besar air kencing saya diuji atas nama orang lain dan
air kencing orang lain diuji atas nama saya.
(e) Kemungkinan yang lebih besar yang membawa kesan dadah dalam air
kencing saya ialah bahawa pada ketika itu saya telah makan/minum
‘Linctus Codeine’ kerana sakit batuk;
(f) Lapuran ujian air kencing ini telah diberitahu kepada saya pada
24 September 1990, iaitu lebihkurang 41/2 bulan selepas ujian air
kencing dibuat. Tetapi jika keputusan ujian itu dikeluarkan
dengan segera maka saya mungkin akan membuat satu lagi ujian
melalui seorang doktor atau ahli kimia yang lain dan dengan itu
ujian mengejut yang dijalankan oleh pihak hospital dapat dicabar;
(g) Saya tidak diberi peluang langsung untuk mencabar atau membela
diri ke atas ujian air kencing yang dijalankan oleh pihak
hospital; oleh itu keraguan adalah ditimbulkan sama ada ujian itu
dikendalikan dengan sempurna.
(h) Untuk menentukan sama ada seorang yang terlibat dengan dadah
memerlukan banyak ujian dan ia tidak boleh ditentukan dengan satu
ujian air kencing secara mengejut; tambahan pula dalam kes ini,
seperti yang tersebut di atas, ada kemungkinan terdapat kesan
dadah akibat saya memakan ubat pada ketika itu.
[*683] (i) Lembaga Tatatertib tidak memberi pertimbangan yang wajar terhadap
banyak keraguan yang timbul dari hasil ujian air kencing yang
mengejut ini dan dengan itu keputusan yang dibuat terhadap saya
adalah tidak adil;
(j) Saya mempunyai rekod perkhidmatan yang bersih selama 27 tahun dan
pegawai-pegawai atasan saya yang pernah saya bertugas dengan
mereka telah memberi pengesahan bertulis bahawa saya bukanlah
seorang yang terlibat dengan dadah dan bahawa saya adalah orang
yang berkelakuan baik;
(k) Hukuman pembuangan kerja adalah suatu hukuman yang sangat berat
dan muktamad. Oleh itu, tuduhan terhadap seseorang pekerja itu
hendaklah terbukti tanpa sebarang keraguan walau sedikit
sekalipun. Jika terdapat atau timbulnya sedikit keraguan
sekalipun ke atas bukti tuduhan itu, maka faedah keraguan itu
haruslah diberi kepada orang yang kena tuduh itu.
Oleh yang demikian, memandangkan terlalu banyak keraguan yang telah
timbul terhadap tuduhan ke atas diri saya dalam kes ini maka saya
merayu supaya hukuman yang dikenakan terhadap saya dibatalkan atau
dikaji semula kerana sekali lagi saya ingin menegaskan bahawa saya
bukanlah seorang pengagih dadah atau orang yang terlibat dengan dadah.
Saya yang menurut perintah,
tt (Utara Badi a/l Perumal)
The plaintiff’s appeal was rejected vide a letter from Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam Malaysia Kuala Lumpur (marked ‘DP17’) which states thus:
Saya diarah menarik perhatian kepada surat tuan terhadap keputusan
Lembaga Tatatertib Kumpulan ‘D’ Hospital Besar, Pulau Pinang yang telah
mengenakan hukuman buang kerja ke atas tuan.
(2) Lembaga Rayuan Tatatertib (Kumpulan ‘D’) dalam mesyuaratnya yang
ke 526 pada 17 Jun 1991 setelah menimbangkan dengan teliti rayuan
tuan itu, telah memutuskan bahawa hujah-hujah yang dikemukakan
bagi menyokong rayuan tuan itu tidak dapat diterima sebagai boleh
mengubah keputusan Lembaga Tatatertib yang telah menjatuhkan
hukuman buang kerja ke atas tuan. Dengan hal yang demikian,
Lembaga Rayuan mengambil keputusan menolak rayuan tuan.
(3) Keputusan Lembaga Rayuan Tatatertib ini adalah muktamad.
The plaintiff sought to move the court for a declaration by way of invoking this court’s power of judicial review. This law is now well settled, and pointedly so, when on 8 May 1996 the Federal Court held, in Civil Appeal No 01-41-94 ( Asriyah bte Sairy v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam, Malaysia) and Federal Court Civil Appeal No 01-40-94 ( Pancha Moorthy a/l Suppaya v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam, Malaysia) that there can be declarations made in relation to unlawful dismissal of a government servant. See also Halimatussaadiah v Public Service Commission, Malaysia  1 MLJ 513 as confirmed by the Supreme Court in Halimatussaadiah bte Hj Kamaruddin v Public Services Commission, Malaysia & Anor  3 MLJ 61 and Syed Mahadzir bin Syed Abdullah v Ketua Polis Negara & Anor  3 MLJ 391 [*684] which was also affirmed on appeal to the Federal Court; in both the cases, declarations were sought for wrongful dismissal of a Government servant.
The plaintiff, through his solicitor, Mr Karpal Singh, raised only three issues. Firstly, he contended that the wording in DP10 (show cause letter) which contained two alternative punishments under general order 26 (or indeed, more than two punishments under general order 36) of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Orders 1980, has nullified the charge itself for want of clarity. He contended that the first defendant should only have stated which of the alternative punishments they intended to use against him, to enable the plaintiff to be prepared for the serious consequences of the charge and be better able to direct his mind to the possibility of such a punishment; it being obvious that dismissal from the service is the most severe punishment that can be imposed upon a civil servant found guilty of misconduct. With respect, I find this objection untenable as, essentially, it pertains to the penalty rather than the charge being equivocal and I do not see how it could affect the validity of the charge. There is nothing wrong with the way the charge is worded in DP10 considering that it is in exact compliance with general order 26 and it contained all the necessary particulars to enable the plaintiff to prepare his written representation in answer thereto. In my view, the charge was properly drafted with enough particulars rendered, to enable the plaintiff to respond to the allegations made and for the purpose of exculpating himself, though an outline of the charge would usually suffice. See Re Pergamon Press Ltd  3 All ER 535. The second issue was that the lst defendant had taken into account other material information which had never been put to the plaintiff. He contended that this must have happened, in view of the expression in DP13:
… setelah menimbangkan dengan teliti pertuduhan ke atas tuan dan
jawapan yang diberi oleh tuan serta maklumat-maklumat lain yang
berkaitan. (Emphasis added.)
This would mean that other matters extraneous to the charge itself, which were never made available to the plaintiff, appeared to have been taken into consideration by the Board, without any opportunity accorded to the plaintiff to make his representation on those extraneous matters. In essence, the complaint is that the plaintiff was not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on the other relevant information that appeared to have been considered in the decision making process which led to his dismissal from service.
In Shamsiah bte Ahmad Sham v Public Services Commission, Malaysia & Anor  3 MLJ 364, the employer had taken into account the employee’s record of past conduct without giving her an opportunity to explain or controvert its contents. Jemuri Serjan SCJ (as he then was) delivering the judgment of the Supreme Court, in allowing the appeal had this to say (pp 368D, 369I):
… What we are saying is that if these materials which have such
damning effect on her case are to be used against her she should be
given a right to [*685] be heard on them. It is not a matter of
pure technicality but it is absolutely fundamental in law that the
appellant should have been given an opportunity of stating her case
regarding her past conducts, considering that the dismissal of a civil
servant is no light matter. …
We wish to add that it has been held that tribunals must not continue
privately to obtain evidence or other information between the
conclusion of the hearing and the making of the decision, without
notifying the parties so as to give them an opportunity to make
submissions on it.
On this issue, reverting to the current matter, the defence called En Karnail Singh a/l L Sohan Singh (DW1), who was at the material time the Deputy Medical Superintendent of Penang General Hospital and also a member of the Disciplinary Board. He explained that by the expression ‘maklumat-maklumat lain yang berkaitan’ in the para 1 of DP13, the Board had meant and was intended to refer to the contents in paras 2, 3 and 4 of the plaintiff’s reply to DP12. He further said that the Board did not take into account any other information but only the result of the urine test. He was positive that, that was the only reason for the plaintiff’s dismissal. And, he acknowledged that there was no oral enquiry, as all representations were made in writing, and that the plaintiff was not given an opportunity to mitigate before imposition of punishment. It is noted that Mr Karpal had in this regard, quite correctly conceded that DP13 is not caught within ss 91 and 92 of the Evidence Act since it was not a document that was required to be reduced into writing under the General Orders.
Thus, after having carefully studied and considered the evidence of DW1, I am satisfied that the defendants have given a full, adequate and acceptable explanation as to what that impugned phrase in DP13 meant, and I accept DW1’s assertion that there were no extraneous matters considered by the Board other than the fact that plaintiff’s urine was tested positive for morphine. I am also minded to accept DW1’s explanation that the other relevant information (‘maklumat-maklumat lain yang berkaitan’) referred to was what the plaintiff had written in his letter of representation (DP12) and nothing more. In the event, the plaintiff’s second challenge on the Board’s procedure does not commend itself to me, and is, as with the first point, devoid of any merit.
It is however, the third and last point taken by Mr Karpal Singh, which I must now turn to, that has engendered in me some considerable interest, and I am sure, the interest of our superior courts hereafter. This issue poses the question: Whether a civil servant is clothed with any right to an opportunity to mitigate before punishment, especially in cases where two or more punishments are held out to him as alternative or possible punishments?
The plaintiff complains that the first defendant — a decision maker — has failed to give the plaintiff, whose interest will be adversely affected by the decision to dismiss him, an opportunity to be heard on the issue of punishment. It is submitted that this right to mitigate is also an implied requirement under art l35(2) of the Federal Constitution which found expression and affirmation through incorporation in general order 23 [*686] of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) (Chapter D) General Orders 1980 (General Orders) and regulation 27 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) General Orders (Chapter D) Regulations 1969. Mr Karpal Singh contends that, as the penalty/punishment was expressed in equivocal terms, the plaintiff shouldnot be dismissed or reduced in rank unless he has been afforded a reasonable opportunity to mitigate. The plaintiff was informed in DP13 that he had been dismissed. It was thus urged upon this court that such a drastic measure which involved loss of the plaintiff’s very livelihood ought, in fairness, to require that he be given the opportunity to make a plea in mitigation for the lighter of the two alternative punishments stated in the charge. My attention was drawn to art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution, which states:
No member of such a service [public service] as aforesaid shall be
dismissed or reduced in rank without being given a reasonable
opportunity of being heard.
On the question of the possible punishments, Mr Karpal, had also made heavy weather of the last sentence in para 2 of DP10 which reads: ‘Jika tuan didapati bersalah, tuan boleh dihukum mengikut perintah am 36 dalam Perintah-Perintah Am yang sama’, and general order 36 sets out nine possible punishments. Though, I am inclined to agree with Mr Karpal’s contention that DP10 is the type of document which the law requires to be reduced to writing, in which case, ss 91 and 92 of the Evidence Act 1950 is applicable to preclude the defendant from contradicting, varying, adding to or subtracting from its terms. In support of this contention, counsel cited my decision in PP v Lee Eng Kooi  2 MLJ 322 — pertaining to a similar issue of the police report which was required under s 107(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code to be reduced to writing — which has been upheld by the Federal Court under Criminal Appeal No 05-63-93. However, I find, and I am fully satisfied that the language ‘dengan tujuan buang kerja atau turun pangkat di bawah perintah am 26’ appearing in the first sentence of the same paragraph of DP10 would have the net effect of sufficently clarifying the last sentence of DP10, as, the impugned phrase has essentially to be read in the context of the clear expression in the first sentence of the same paragraph in the same document. Be that as it may, yet it is nevertheless beyond question that at least two alternative, and in that sense, equivocal punishments have been held out to him. This being the case, Mr Karpal’s third contention calls for this court’s careful deliberation.
As far back as in 1987, Ajaib Singh J in the case of Alan Noor bin Kamat v Inspector General of Police & Anor  l CLJ 51 had this to say (at p 56):
… After considering these explanations and having found that the
plaintiff had failed to exculpate himself, it was incumbent upon the
Inspector General of Police thereafter to give the plaintiff an
opportunity to make a plea in mitigation on punishment. This right of
the plaintiff to be heard in mitigation is implied in regulation 27 of
the General Orders and in art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution for
otherwise it cannot be said that the plaintiff had [*687] been
given a reasonable opportunity of being heard. He had to be heard
throughout the proceedings from the beginning to the end. Isn’t it a
fair and reasonable expectation of any person condemned for a wrong
that he would be heard in mitigation before any punishment is imposed
However, Ajaib Singh J decision in Alan Noor went up on appeal to the Supreme Court, but though the appeal was dismissed, Salleh Abas LP made certain obiter comments which are somewhat at variance with the dicta of Ajaib Singh J in the court below. This is what the Lord President had to say:
As it stands, this passage appears to be misleading. This passage
should be read in the light of the factual situation of this case,
wherein the show cause letter dated 14 May 1980 was completely silent
as to the comtemplated punishment to be imposed at the end of the
disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, in order to ensure that the
respondent understood and appreciated the seriousness of the
proceedings he was facing, the learned trial judge was right in
insisting that another chance must be given to him, which he called a
plea of mitigation. If, however, the show cause letter had included the
proposed punishment, for example, by the inclusion of such statement
as: ‘This proceeding is taken against you with a view to dismissal or
reduction in rank …’ or ‘This proceeding is taken under general order
30 with a view to dismissal or reduction in rank …’, or such other
phraseology as would give the effect of making the respondent
understand the nature of the proceedings and what they would lead to,
there is no necessity for the appellants to give another opportunity of
being heard before the punishment is imposed.
The above dicta of Salleh Abas LP is clearly obiter and for reasons below, I am, with respect, not pursuaded to adopt it.
Even at first blush, it had struck me as somewhat unjust to deny the plaintiff here an opportunity to mitigate where it involves alternative punishments, before penalty is imposed in criminal jurisprudence, as:
(a) the two alternative punishmentsnotified to the plaintiff were
tentative, drastically distinct in effect and distinctively equivocal in
specie, one from the other.
(b) the heavier of the two alternative punishments is severely penal in
(c) the very question of which one of the two alternative punishments to
mete out to the plaintiff would itself essentially entail a deliberative
decision making process on the part of the defendant Board.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, both India and Malaysia are each governed by a written Constitution. It is noteworthy, that the exercise of termination of employment of a government servant in India is subject to the provisions of art 311 of the Indian Constitution which is equivalent to our art 135(2).
There is a striking similarity in the language employed, by the formulators of the two Constitutions, in art 135(2) (‘art 135(2)’) of the Federal Constitution and art 311(2) (‘art 311(2)’) of the Indian Constitution. Article 135(2) reads as follows:
[*688] No member of such a service as aforesaid shall be dismissed or reduced
in rank without being given a reasonable opportunity of being heard:
Provided that this Clause shall not apply to the following cases:
(a) where a member of such a service is dismissed or reduced in rank
on the grounds of conduct in respect of which a Criminal charge
has been proved against him;
And art 311(2) reads:
No such person as aforesaid shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in
rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the
charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard
in respect of those charges. …
Provided that this clause shall not apply —
(a) where a person is dismissed or removed or reduced in rank on the
ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal
charge; … .
Though proviso (a) of our art 135(2) is wholly irrelevant to the current discussions, yet it is nevertheless of interest to note that it has been held by our Court of Appeal that this proviso (a) precludes invocation of art 135(2) not only by a civil servant who has been convicted of a criminal charge, but also, by such employee who is bound over under s 173A(ii)(b) with no conviction recorded. See Tan Tek Seng v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Pendidikan & Anor  1 MLJ 261.
It would follow that the decisions of the Indian courts upon such analogous provision are to be accorded greater weight and regarded as of great persuasive force in our decisions here. It is pertinent to note that Pt IV of the All India Services (Disciplinary and Appeal) Rules 1969 (which deals with the procedure for disciplinary action against Indian civil servants) require the holding of an inquiry, unlike our General Orders which, in Pt II (in the case of dismissal or reduction in rank) provide for only a show cause letter and written representations; albeit, with provision for the Disciplinary Authority to appoint a committee of inquiry (under general order 26(5)), but even then, if further clarification is necessary. Yet, despite the fact that holding of an inquiry is mandatory in India, it has been consistently held in a copious and welter of Indian cases, (which followed the Privy Council decision in High Commissioner of India v IM Lall AIR 1948 PC 121), that it is manifest in art 311 that a civil servant has a right to a reasonable opportunity of showing cause twice before an order of dismissal is imposed. These two stages under art 311 are: first, when the charges are enquired into, and secondly, when after the enquiring authority has come to the conclusion that the charge or charges has been established and there arises the question of the proper punishment to be imposed, a notice has then to be given to show cause against the nature of punishment to be imposed; see Sher Singh, Malhan, Petition er v State Madhya Pradesh AIR 1955 Nag 175; 42 CN 40.
The ratio in Sher Singh has been faithfully echoed in similar vein in the following other Indian cases:
[*689] (i) Tribhuwan Nath Pandey v Union of India AIR 1953 Nag 138
(ii) Sobhagmal v State AIR 1954 Raj 207
(iii) Hiro Lilaram Chablani v State of Hyderabad AIR 1955 Hyde 48
(iv) Ganesh Balakrishna Deshmukh v State of Madhya Bharat (1956) Mad
(v) C Apparao v The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Northern Range,
Waltair & Anor AIR 1958 And Pra 269
(vi) Bachhittar Singh v State of Punjab & Anor AIR 1963 SC 395
(vii) State of Bombay v Amarsinh Raval AIR 1963 Guj 244
(viii) State of Bihar v Abdul Majid AIR 1954 SC 245
(ix) Vasant Pandurang Deval v The State of Bombay AIR 1963 Bom 269
(x) Gangadhar Gurusiddappa v Union of India AIR 1963 Mys 193
(xi) The High Commissioner of India v IM Lall AIR 1948 PC 121.
I have earlier expressed a tentative opinion that it would be unjust to deny the civil servant an opportunity to be heard in mitigation before punishment is imposed on him, as the punishment itself involves a further decision-making process. Now, upon careful reading of the speech of Lord Thankerton, delivered on behalf of the Privy Council in IM Lall, I find eminently pursuasive and authoritative dicta to fortify that opinion. The reason being also that the expressed alternative punishments are merely suggested punishments, and hence hypothetical, until a definite decision has been come to on the charges. I need do no more in this regard than to quote the relevant passage in Lord Thankerton’s speech, which was logically and aptly articulated thusly:
In the opinion of their Lordships, no action is proposed within the
meaning of the subsection until a definite conclusion has been come to
on the charges, and the actual punishment to follow is provisionally
determined on. Prior to that stage, the charges are unproved and the
suggested punishments are merely hypothetical. It is on that stage
being reached that the statute gives the civil servant opportunity for
which sub-s (8) makes provision. Their Lordships would only add that
they see no difficulty in the statutory opportunity being reasonably
afforded at more than one stage. If the civil servant has been through
an enquiry under R55, it would not be reasonable that he should ask for
a repetition of that stage, if duly carried out, but that would not
exhaust his statutory right, and he would still be entitled to
represent against the punishment proposed as the result of the findings
of the enquiry.
Pertaining to the right to mitigate, I have not overlooked the language used in general order 35(1), which, if read in isolation, may appear to militate against the plaintiff’s case, as being in effect a denial of the right to mitigate. It reads:
Notwithstanding anything in General Order 23, if after considering the
report and documents submitted by the Head of Department general orders
33 and 34(1), the appropriate Disciplinary Authority is of the opinion
that the officer merits dismissal or reduction in rank, it may
forthwith direct [*690] accordingly; or if it is of the opinion
that the officer should be inflicted with a lesser punishment or
otherwise dealt with, the Disciplinary Authority may forthwith inflict
upon the officer such lesser punishment or deal with him such a manner
as it may deem fit.
However, it is crystal clear that General Order 35(1) is only applicable in the context of General Order 33 (which deals with an officer where criminal proceedings against him results in his conviction) and also General Order 34 (1) (which concerns procedure in the case of preventive detention and banishment). And, in the context of criminal proceedings, be it noted that regulation 28 defines the term ‘convicted’ or ‘conviction’ to include a finding or an order involving a finding of guilt in a criminal court. Hence, General Order 35(1), which allows a Disciplnary Authority to ‘forthwith inflict upon the officer such lesser punishment’ of ‘dismissal’ or ‘reduction in rank’ or ‘deal with him in such manner as it may deem fit’– thereby implying that the civil servant is not clothed with any right to mitigate on the punishment — is manifestly and plainly intended by the legislature to be invoked only where the servant’s case falls strictly within the ambit of the proviso (a) of art 135(2) or General Order 34(1) and not otherwise. This is logically so, as in the firstplace, such civil servant who is caught within proviso (a) of art 135(2) is expressly barred by the supreme law of the land from the right to be heard or an opportunity to show cause before being removed or reduced in rank. Here, it is crucial to note that it has never been the defendants’ contention that the plaintiff is caught within proviso (a) of art 135(2).
It ought to be borne in mind that unlike a reduction in rank, the extreme punishment of dismissal from service severely affects the civil servant’s future, in terms of loss of livehood and his family’s loss of his financial support; to him it is loss of the ultimate stake in his future. Thus, I hold that when the Board decided to dismiss the plaintiff, a decision making process was undertaken; and the decision to dismiss him was done as much in the process of exercising a quasi-judicial function as the decision to reject his written representations to exculpate himself on the show cause notice.
If art 135(2) is read in conjunction with arts 5(1) and 8(1) of the Federal Constitution, it cannot be denied that procedural fairness in dealing with matters affecting the citizens is also part of our law, as the word ‘law’ in both articles encompasses both substantive law and enacted procedure. See Ong Ah Chuan v PP  1 MLJ 64, Dewan Undangan Negeri Kelantan & Anor v Nordin bin Salleh & Anor  1 MLJ 697, Smt Maneka Gandhi v Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597 and Shri Sitaram Sugar Co Ltd v Union of India & Ors  3 SCC 223. See also Tan Tek Seng, in which this point was extensively discussed by Gopal Sri Ram JCA, delivering the majority judgment of the Court of Appeal. As this nation moves towards a modern society, governed by just and justiciable laws, firmly and fairly enforced, with its executive actions avowed to be anchored upon the principles of transparency and accountability, it is inevitable that an increasingly more liberal and purposeful approach would have to be taken by the courts, in interpreting the rights of the citizenry, in the light [*691] of and to implement the true brooding spirit of the framers of the Federal Constitution. It is thus my considered decision that the right of the plaintiff to be heard in mitigation is implicitly encompassed in general order 23 of the General Order and in art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution, unless proviso (a) thereof is applicable (not the case here). He has to be heard throughout the proceedings from the beginning to the end. And, with respect, I agree with the dicta encapsulated in the rhetorical question posed by Ajaib Singh J in the case of Alan Noor: ‘Isn’t it a fair and reasonable expectation of any person condemned for a wrong that he would be heard in mitigation before any punishment is imposed on him?’ Consequently, in my judgment, as it is common ground that the first defendant had not given the plaintiff any opportunity to be heard in mitigation before punishment, the decision making process pertaining thereto is fatally flawed.
As I have held that the plaintiff is entitled to succeed due to procedural error on the part of the first defendant which has seriously prejudiced the rights of the plaintiff, I shall now finally turn to consider the nature of relief or order that is open for this court to make. It is trite law, in our as well as other Commonwealth jurisdictions, that the scope of judicial review is limited only to review of the decision-making process and not the decision itself. (See Tropiland Sdn Bhd v Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai  4 MLJ 16.)
It is in the vital interest of the citizenry that the powers of the court on judicial review ought, in a democracy, essentially to be preserved if only to check and curb the occasional excesses or capricious ness of the executive and public administrative bodies. Indeed, if we are to maintain the essential basic principles governing a democracy, it becomes the bounden duty of the courts to intercede in favour of the citizen when such lapses are manifest (as happened in Tropiland Sdn Bhd v Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai). The courts have thus jealously and vigilantly guarded its powers of judicial review. It must be borne in mind that the courts have often exercised its powers of judicial review in the teeth of ouster of jurisdiction provisions in certain statutes, eg for writ of habeas corpus despite s 11C of the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985. In judicial review, the court does not sit as an appellate body and has no appellate power to exercise. So, quite rightly, in its vigilance to protect and most importantly, to preserve such powers, the courts have been consistenly averse to review or interfere with the decision per se of the executive or public administrator in such cases.
Thus, in the instant case before me, it is plainly beyond the ambit of a judicial review for this court to touch on the decision itself and consider whether, if the plaintiff was rightly found to be a drug addict, he could be allowed to continue to work in an institution such as a hospital. Though, even on this score it may also be noted that the plaintiff had in para (c) of DP14, asserted that the urine tested was not his urine as he had not taken prohibited drugs but only cough mixture. And, it is equally untenable for me here to decide whether the lesser of the two alternative penalties ought to have been imposed, as this point was not taken by either party, and [*692] quite apart from the fact that such deliberation is precluded by the lack of any printed or oral evidence on (nor do I see) to what lower rank a hospital attendant — such as the plaintiff — could be reduced.
Obviously, for the current purposes, what has to be decided — within this court’spurview — is, and I so hold that, due to non-compliance of general order 23 of the General Orders and of art 135(2) of the Federal Constitution in the manner in which the first defendant had made their decision on the punishment imposed, the termination of the plaintiff’s services had been rendered nugatory, null and void and of no effect.
In the circumstances, therefore I allow the plaintiff’s claim with costs and declare that the punishments imposed on him are null and void and of no effect. I further declare that the plaintiff is still a hospital attendant and is entitled to all his salaries and benefits due to him as such. The parties are to determine the plaintiff’s salaries and other emoluments due to him failing which an inquiry will be held by the senior assistant registrar of this court to determine these issues.
Plaintiff’s claim allowed.
LOAD-DATE: June 3, 2003