PUTRAJAYA: The family of detainee P. Karuna Nithi, who died in police custody 11 years ago, were denied leave by the Federal Court today to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of their second lawsuit against the government and police.

A three-judge panel led by Justice Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan denied the application of Karuna Nithi’s widow, R. Kaliamah, and her two sons, K. Yugesh Varan and K. Kisho Kumar, for leave to appeal in their second lawsuit.

The other presiding judges were Justices Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

Justice Nallini stated that the issue in their second suit is res judicata, meaning it has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore cannot be pursued further by the same parties.

“Regrettably, we will have to dismiss the application for leave to appeal with no order as to costs,” she said via Zoom proceedings.

She explained that the second suit is based on the same facts, same parties, and same issues, except for the introduction of a new point of law. This, she noted, is a classic definition of res judicata, adding that the law is clear, and the court is bound to follow it.

“It is a very sad thing that this gentleman, who was in custody, suffered 49 blows. But the court has gone through the process and our hands are tied,” said Justice Nallini.

She added that issues relating to Article 5 of the Federal Constitution on a person’s fundamental liberty, have been argued.

Justice Nallini said since the law is very clear, the court did not need to hear submissions from senior federal counsel Donald Joseph Franklin who appeared for the 16 respondents including the policemen, the Home Minister, and the government.

Earlier, lawyer T. Manoharan who represented Kaliamah and her sons said their first suit was filed under Section 7 of the Civil Law Act 1956 but the second suit is under public law.

Karuna Nithi was arrested on May 28, 2013, but died in custody on June 1, 2013, and was found with 49 fresh injuries on his body.

In January 2015, the coroner’s open verdict ruled that Karuna Nithi’s death was due to several factors, including beatings by the police and other inmates, resulting in the injuries he sustained.

Following the inquest, Kaliamah and her sons filed a lawsuit on Jan 25, 2018, at the Seremban High Court, alleging negligence and assault by the police and government leading to Karuna Nithi’s death.

However, the court dismissed the family’s suit, stating it was filed out of time, as it was lodged more than three years after Karuna Nithi died in custody in 2013.

The Court of Appeal and Federal Court also upheld the decision.

Kaliamah and her two sons then filed another lawsuit on Jan 26, 2021, against 16 defendants including 14 policemen, the Home Minister, and the government seeking compensation for Karuna Nithi’s death.

In February 2022, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed the family’s second suit and on Oct 19, 2023, the appellate court upheld that decision.