Published on September 15th, 2023 | by Sounder Rajen0
Court Finds JPJ Negligent In Cloned Car Case For A Landmark Ruling
In a rare instance, the High Court ruled that JPJ did not take appropriate action
The High Court served up a landmark ruling yesterday as it found the road transport department (JPJ) negligent for not maintaining accurate vehicle registration records. The case was brought by a doctor who unwittingly bought a cloned 2013 Toyota Vellfire three years ago. Let’s explore
In May last year, the good doctor sued the Penang JPJ director, the JPJ director-general and the federal government, after JPJ seized her car 10 months after she bought it, saying the chassis and engine numbers had been subject to tampering. However, the fault was not hers.
Moreover, the court awarded Dr Hema Thiyagu RM139,000 in damages, which is the purchase price of the car after finding JPJ had breached its statutory duties. In her suit, Dr. Hema, 33, claimed that JPJ failed to explain how it had not detected the tampering when she registered the vehicle.
Her lawyer,K Simon Murali, argued that the JPJ was negligent in allowing the car’s chassis and engine numbers to be registered to a different car. He also said that based on JPJ’s chronology presented to the court, the stolen car was registered in Ipoh with the chassis and engine numbers from another car registered previously in Johor.
Murali also said based on the testimonies by witnesses from JPJ, there was no evidence that the original Vellfire’s owner was present during the ownership transfer in Ipoh, despite it being a legal requirement and from then on, the stolen car was illegally registered and changed hands several times before it was unknowingly purchased by his client.
In its defence, JPJ said Hema’s car was cloned and had been reported stolen in Labu, Negeri Sembilan, in 2019, while the chassis and engine numbers were from the other car in Johor. The Johor-registered vehicle had been owned by an insurer following an accident in 2018 and was auctioned off the following year.
A subsequent buyer, when trying to change the ownership to his name, found the vehicle was “already registered,” JPJ said in its defence statement and added that as such, it was not obliged to inspect the vehicles before registering them, because such duties lay with Puspakom.
On top of that, it said its registration process was based on required documents only and, therefore, it was not legally obliged to tell Hema why her car was seized. In his judgment, Justice Anand Ponnudurai said the JPJ director-general has a responsibility to maintain an accurate vehicle register, especially of cars flagged as cloned.
He said that, as a result, the Penang JPJ director and the JPJ director-general had breached their statutory duties and Senior federal counsel Muhammad Sinti represented JPJ and the federal government.