Sunday, June 19, 2022

19 Groups - Stop Harassment of the Malaysian Bar and Lawyers – Respect Right to Peaceful Assembly

 Media Statement – 20/6/2022

Stop Harassment of the Malaysian Bar and Lawyers – Respect Right to Peaceful Assembly

We, the 19 undersigned groups and organizations are appalled by the police actions preventing about 500 lawyers of the Malaysian Bar from exercising their right to peaceful assembly in the "Walk for Judicial independence" on 17/6/2022, whereby the lawyers who had gathered at Padang Merbok car park to walk to Parliament, about a kilometer away, to hand over a Memorandum to the Prime Minister were wrongly prevented from doing so.

This was despite the fact that the representative of the Prime Minister had apparently made arrangement for the receipt of the protest note in Parliament. Later, the Deputy Law Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, on behalf of the Prime Minister, had to go to the meeting point to accept the memorandum from the Bar President.

It was reported that ‘…police personnel formed a human chain to disallow some lawyers from attempting to leave the area…A police light strike force unit was also called in to provide further security after several lawyers attempted to leave the area but were denied.’(Star, 18/6/2022)

Police harassment continuing

It is a wrong misconception that the police is the ‘permission giver’ before one can freely exercise one’s right to peaceful assembly. ‘The task of the police is to facilitate and not frustrate the exercise of that right’ is a position taken by the courts and also the Bar.

The harassment against the Malaysian Bar and the lawyers continues when Dang Wangi OCPD ACP Noor Dellhan Yahaya said today the police will call up all participants of the "Walk for Judicial independence" march by the Malaysian Bar to give their statements, despite blocking the walk from occurring. (Malay Mail, 17/6/2022).

Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Noor Dellhan Yahaya confirmed the matter when contacted Saturday (June 18). “They will be called to give their statements next week. All participants that were present will be called," he said. [Star, 18/6/2022]"

Such conduct of State and State agents, is contrary to justice and human rights, and may deter future exercise of peoples’ right to peaceful assembly in Malaysia.

Malaysian Bar’s right denied despite following the law

The Malaysian Bar sent the required notification to the police on 7/6/2022, more than 5 days before the intended march. According to law, within 3 days from the receipt of notification, the police must inform the organizer of any restrictions or conditions, and there was none in this case within the stipulated time.

On about 16/6/2022, a day before the intended march, the police suddenly ‘denied permission’ for the lawyers to march to Parliament, and allowed them to just assemble at the meeting point in Padang Merbok. It would have been most frustrating, for the hundreds of lawyer, some of who travelled hundreds of kilometers to march to Parliament to find themselves confined to a car park far away from the public eye.

The Bar rightfully took the position in accordance to law, that ‘…the assembly shall proceed as proposed in the notification…’ – the lawyers will gather and march to Parliament.

Section 14 (1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 states that, ‘…The Officer in Charge of the Police District shall respond to the notification under subsection 9(1) within three days of the receipt of the notification and shall, in the response, inform the organizer of the restrictions and conditions imposed under section 15, if any…’ Section 14(2) clearly says that ‘If the Officer in Charge of the Police District does not respond to the notification in accordance with subsection (1), the assembly shall proceed as proposed in the notification. “

Therefore, it is clear that the police had violated the law, and the right to peaceful assembly of the lawyers, when they prevented the Bar from marching to Parliament on 17/6/2022.

Judges are not above the law - "Walk for Judicial independence"

The march to Parliament was pursuant to a Resolution adopted at the Malaysian Bar Extraordinary General Meeting held on 27/5/2022.

The Malaysian Bar, while taking the position that Superior Court judges ‘…are not above the law and must be made accountable for crimes they commit, and that law enforcement agencies must be allowed to carry out their respective tasks in accordance with the law and the Federal Constitution…’, but how such investigations are carried out matters. The Bar, for example,  condemned ‘…the unprecedented manner in which the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) has publicly announced the commencement of criminal investigation of a Superior Court Judge, and disclosed the name of the judge to the public, for an indefinite period and without proper closure, which is tantamount to an act of intimidation against the Judiciary…’.

There, we call for

a)      The immediate end of harassment of the Malaysian Bar and lawyers by the police. Police must discontinue plans of calling for investigation all organizers and participants of "Walk for Judicial independence";

b)     The relevant police officers, Inspector General of Police, the Minister in charge and/or the Government to forthwith tender a public apology to the Malaysian Bar and lawyers for their actions/omissions that frustrated the exercise of the lawyers’ right of peaceful assembly; and

c)      Malaysia to defend and promote the right of peaceful assembly, which must also include human rights education to police and other law enforcement bodies.

Charles Hector

Adrian Pereira

 

For and on behalf of the following 19 groups

 

ALIRAN

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

North South Initiative

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region

Black Women for Wages for Housework

Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)

Citizen Action Group on Enforced Disappearance (CAGED)

Community Resource Centre, Thailand

Haiti Action Committee

NAMM (Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia)

OHMSI Sdn Bhd

Payday Men’s Network (UK/US)

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

Sisters in Islam

Tenaganita

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

The William Gomes Podcast, UK

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar’s negotiations with the police for lawyers to march from Padang Merbok to the Parliament building for its “Walk for judicial independence” reportedly failed, FMT reports.

According to the report, the police allowed only 20 lawyers to march to the Parliament building to hand over a memorandum, but the Bar did not agree with this.

The lawyers tried to go ahead with the march but failed to break through the police human barricade formed at both ends of the Padang Merbok car park.

About 500 lawyers had gathered for the march, but they were held back by the strong police presence.

Among those present were former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas and politicians from parties like DAP, PKR and Muda. - Sun Daily, 17/6/2022

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Group: Ordering Nagaenthran’s lawyers to pay cost an affront to justice (Malaysiakini)

 

mk-logo
News
Group: Ordering Nagaenthran’s lawyers to pay cost an affront to justice
Published:  May 31, 2022 5:21 PM
Updated: 5:22 PM

A group comprising 20 civil society organisations has criticised Singapore’s Court of Appeal for ordering Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam’s lawyers to personally pay the cost of S$20,000 (RM64,000) to the country’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

In a statement, they said the AGC had initially sought S$40,000 from the lawyers in question, M Ravi and Violet Netto, for setting out to delay Nagaenthran’s execution by filing unmeritorious applications.

This was said to have resulted in the incursion of unnecessary costs.

“What is even more shocking is that the five-judge Court of Appeal, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, makes this cost order a month after the said lawyers’ client, Nagaenthran, had been executed,” said the group.

The statement was co-signed by 20 local and international civil society groups including Aliran, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet), the North-South Initiative, Black Women for Wages for Housework, and Lawyers Collective (India).

They described such an order as an affront to the right to a fair trial and justice.

“This will seriously impact the ability of lawyers and their clients from doing the needful, including the filing of needed applications in the defence of their clients.

“Whilst in some jurisdictions, it seems possible that the court can order the defendant/accused/convicted person to pay the cost to the prosecution, it is rare.

“Such laws or practices ought to be repealed,” they said.

They cited the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia’s 2002 statement that it is inappropriate for a defendant who is guilty to pay costs to the prosecution given that they would have already been subject to some form of court-ordered penalty.

The group noted that in this case, the Singapore court did not order the defendant to pay the cost to the prosecution.

“The existence of laws, and this action of the Singapore court ordering lawyers to personally pay the cost of prosecution, is a violation of, amongst others, of Rule 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers,” they said.

Rule 16 states that governments are to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all professional duties without any form of intimidation and improper interference.

Additionally, it states that lawyers are not to be threatened with prosecution, economic or any other sanctions for actions done in their line of duty, standards and ethics.

The group called on the Singaporean government to immediately repeal its laws that allow for the accused, the convicted or their lawyers to be ordered to pay costs to the prosecution in criminal trials.

“It must be appreciated that new evidence or relevant legal points or arguments may arise at different times, warranting additional applications.

“Such additional applications should never be seen as an abuse of the court process, more so in death penalty cases.

“Hence, we call on Singapore to immediately repeal laws that allow for the accused/convicted and/or their lawyers to be ordered to pay the cost to the prosecution in criminal trials, an example being Part 18 of Singapore’s Criminal Procedure Code,” they said.

Section 355 provides for the accused or convicted to pay the cost “to any other party to the proceedings”, which in criminal trials would be the prosecution.

Section 357 provides the possibility that a lawyer may end up paying the cost to the prosecution.

The group argued that it is reasonable for the convicted to be ordered to pay compensation or damages to the victims of the crime.

However, they said, there is no justification for orders to pay prosecution costs in a criminal trial, more so in a death penalty case.

“At end of the day, it is the role of the courts to consider any or all evidence and legal arguments, irrespective of how late it comes to the attention of the court to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice especially when the convicted may be executed.”

Mentally impaired

Nagaenthran was a 33-year-old mentally impaired Malaysian, who was sentenced for a drug trafficking offence in Singapore.

He had been on death row for more than a decade for trafficking about 42.7g of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world's toughest narcotics laws.

His lawyers had said he has a mild intellectual disability due to his lower-than-average IQ of 69.

Nagaenthran was scheduled to hang on Nov 10 last year but was granted a stay of execution on Nov 8 after his Singaporean lawyer M Ravi filed an 11th-hour constitutional challenge.

Although the Singapore High Court dismissed the challenge, it allowed an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The appeal was supposed to be heard in November but was postponed to March this year when Nagaenthran tested positive for Covid-19 on Nov 9, 2021.

However, his appeal was again rejected on March 29 this year.

Nagaenthran was executed April 27 after his mother failed, the day before, in her last-ditch legal challenge to set aside his conviction and death sentence.- Malaysiakini, 31/5/2022

Ordering Lawyer To Personally Pay Cost Of SGD20,000 To Attorney General’s Chambers In A Criminal Trial Is A Violation Of The Right To Fair Trial, And A Harassment Of Lawyers - 20 Groups

 

Media Statement – 1/6/2022

Singapore’s Court Ordering  Lawyer To Personally Pay Cost Of SGD20,000 To Attorney General’s Chambers In A Criminal Trial Is A Violation Of The Right To Fair Trial, And A Harassment Of Lawyers

We, the 20 undersigned groups/organizations are perturbed to hear that the Singapore Court of Appeal ordered on Wednesday (25/5/2022) that the 2 lawyers that represented Malaysian Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, being Mr M. Ravi and Ms Violet Netto to personally pay cost of SGD20,000(13,621 Euro/RM64,000) to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC). (Straits Times, 25/5/2022). The AGC had originally sought personal costs totaling $40,000 against Mr Ravi and Ms Netto for setting out to delay Nagaenthran's execution by filing unmeritorious applications, which caused it to incur unnecessary costs.

Nagaenthran was convicted of trafficking 42.72g of heroin in 2010 and given the mandatory death penalty. He, despite being a person suffering from an intellectual disability with an IQ of 69, was subsequently hanged to death at Changi Prison Complex on April 27.

What is even more shocking is that the five-judge Court of Appeal, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, makes this cost order after a month after the said lawyers’ client, Nagaenthran, had been executed.

RIGHT TO FAIR TRIAL

It is an affront to the right to a fair trial and justice, if the defendant/accused/convicted and/or their lawyer is placed at risk of retaliation by prosecutors and/or courts, including the possibility of being penalized by having lawyers pay cost of the prosecution in a criminal case. This will seriously impact the ability of lawyers and their client/s doing the needful including the filing of needed application/s in the defence of their client.

Whilst in some jurisdictions, it seems possible that the court can order the defendant/accused/convicted person to pay cost to the prosecution, it is rare. Such laws or practice ought to be repealed.

In 2002 the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia stated that ‘…it is inappropriate for a Defendant who is guilty to pay costs to the Prosecution given that he or she would have already been subject to some other form of court-ordered penalty...’ Another reason for not awarding costs is that the ‘…Prosecution team is supported by state resources and is serving a public duty….’

VIOLATION OF STATE’S OBLIGATION TO PROTECT LAWYERS

In this case, the Singapore court did not order the defendant/accused/convicted to pay cost to the prosecution, but ordered the lawyers that had acted for him to PERSONALLY pay cost to the prosecution. The act of ‘attacking’ lawyers directly for things done whilst acting for a client is totally unacceptable and unjust.

Rule 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, a UN Instrument adopted in 1990, states that, ‘Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.’ It must be noted that any applications made to court by a lawyer are done with the instructions and approval of their client/s, and, as such, even if there are to be cost orders by the court, such cost orders ought to be against the client, being the accused or convicted in criminal cases, but never against the lawyer personally.

The existence of laws, and this action of the Singapore Court ordering lawyers to personally pay cost of prosecution, is a violation of, amongst others, of Rule 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Rule 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states, ‘Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b… and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

The existence of laws, that today allows the court to order an accused or convicted, and/or their lawyer to pay costs to the prosecution by reason of the manner the defence of the person was conducted through the legal process or courts would reasonably be considered an intimidation, harassment and/or an improper interference with the right to a fair trial, and the professional duties of a lawyer. It is a violation of human rights and justice, amongst others, of Rule 16.

UNJUST TO NOT BRING TO ATTENTION OF COURT LEGAL ARGUMENTS OR EVIDENCE

Such laws and practice may deter lawyers from filing needed applications to bring to the attention of the court relevant evidence, new legal arguments or points of law – and this may lead to a miscarriage of justice. We note that ultimately in the criminal justice system, it is the courts and judges that ultimately decide, and no one else, be it the prosecution or the accused (or their lawyer), on merits of any application and whether it will affect conviction or sentence.

Lawyers and/or prosecutors should never decide on their own whether to bring it to the attention of the court or not, even if it comes to their attention at the 11th hour. They have no choice but to bring it to the attention of the courts that will consider and make a just decision.

 Not bringing some matters for fear of cost orders may lead to a miscarriage of justice. It must be appreciated, that new evidence or relevant legal points or arguments may arise at different times, warranting additional applications. Such additional applications should never be seen as an abuse of the court process, more so in death penalty cases.

Hence, we call on Singapore to immediately repeal of laws that allows for the accused/convicted and/or their lawyers to be ordered to pay cost to the prosecution in criminal trials, an example, being Part 18 of Singapore’s Criminal Procedure Code. Section 355 in this part, for example, provides for an accused convicted to pay cost to ‘to any other party to the proceedings’, which in criminal trials would be the prosecution. Section 357 provides the possibility that a lawyer may end up paying cost to prosecution.

CONVICTED PAYING COMPENSATION TO VICTIMS JUST, BUT NOT ORDER FOR CONVICTED (OR LAWYER) TO PAY PROSECUTION COST IN CRIMINAL TRIALS

It is reasonable that the convicted be ordered to pay compensation or damages to the victims of the crime, but there is no justification for orders to pay prosecution cost in a criminal trial, more so in a death penalty case.

An order for costs and/or compensation to a successful Defendant/accused who has had his or her charges dismissed, withdrawn or been acquitted is also just. The purpose of such an order for costs is to compensate and indemnify the Defendant for the costs, loss of liberty and other losses he or she has incurred or suffered in the process of the legal proceedings.

A client also has a cause of action against his/her own lawyer for, amongst others, professional negligence. A lawyer too may be subjected disciplinary proceeding for breach of professional ethics or conduct. BUT, a lawyer should never be made to pay personally cost of prosecution in a criminal case where he acts for the accused/convicted.

STATE, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, JUDGES AND LAWYERS – PROFESSIONALISM TO ENSURE JUSTICE

We are also appalled by the involvement of the AGC or the prosecution in this application for the lawyers to personally pay cost. Prosecution should act professionally and independently, with the objective of ensuring that there are no miscarriage of justice. It is best that prosecution is not affected emotionally, or is seen to be targeting or retaliating against lawyers. The AGC, in this case, should never have applied for or asked for the lawyers to personally pay cost.

Based on the Singapore AGC’s past Press Releases, it appears that in 22/2/2022, the Attorney Genaral’s Chambers did file two disciplinary complaints to the Law Society of Singapore (“Law Society”) against Mr Ravi and another lawyer. On 23/10/2020, the Attorney-General’s Chambers also did file a disciplinary complaint to the Law Society of Singapore (“Law Society”) against Mr Ravi Madasamy.

Such past incidents, where the AGC who also is the Public Prosecutor, filing disciplinary complaints against individual lawyers is of concern, it raises the perception that the State, the AGC and/or the Public Prosecutor’s independence and professionalism may be emotionally compromised. The Public Prosecutor and/or AGC should never be seen targeting or going after specific lawyers that appeared in criminal trials as lawyers acting for the accused/convicted.

We urge that Singapore, the Judiciary, the Public Prosecutor, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and lawyers act professionally and independently to ensure the Right To A Fair Trial, and lawyers in trials, especially criminal trials, are not subject any form of intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference in their carrying out the professional responsibility as lawyers for the accused/convicted. At end of end of the day, it is the role of the Courts to consider any or all evidence and legal arguments, irrespective of how late it comes to the attention of the Court to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice especially when the convicted may be executed.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf the listed 20 groups

 

ALIRAN

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Black Women for Wages for Housework

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED), Malaysia

German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP)

Haiti Action Committee

International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center

Justice Project Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan)

Lawyers Collective, India

Legal Action for Women, United Kingdom

NAMM (Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia)

North South Initiative

Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL

Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Bangladesh

The William Gomes Podcast, United Kingdom

Transformative Justice Collective

Women of Color Global Women’s Strike

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

 

 

 See earlier post:-

Lawyers for Malaysian drug trafficker ordered to pay SGD20,000 prosecution costs - The law/practice must be abolished to ensure Right To Fair Trial?

For the Judgment - 

Singapore EX TEMPORE Judgment - where court ordered lawyers in death penalty CRIMINAL case to pay cost personally to Attorney General

Lawyers ordered to pay S$20,000 for incurring ‘unnecessary court costs’

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was executed on April 27, had been on death row since 2010 for smuggling 42.7gm of heroin into Singapore.

PETALING JAYA: The two lawyers who acted for executed Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam were yesterday ordered to pay S$20,000 (about RM64,000) in costs to the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

M Ravi.

According to a report in The Straits Times, the AGC had originally sought personal costs totalling S$40,000 against M Ravi and Violet Netto for delaying Nagaenthran’s execution by filing “unmeritorious applications”, which caused the court to incur unnecessary costs.

A five-member Court of Appeal panel led by chief justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday said it would be apparent to any “reasonable defence counsel that the case advanced by the duo lacked factual basis”.

Instead of putting their best case forward at the first instance, it said, the lawyers “drip fed” the supposed evidence and tendered documents at the last possible moment.

Nagaenthran, who was executed on April 27, had been on death row since 2010 for smuggling 42.7gm of heroin into Singapore.

During the trial, he was declared to be a person suffering from an intellectual disability with an IQ of 69.

However, the court found him to be not “substantially impaired” and that he knew fully well that he was carrying out an illegal act, according to reports.

Days before he was scheduled to be hanged on Nov 10 last year, Ravi filed an application seeking judicial review of the impending execution.

Arguing that Nagaenthran was mentally disabled, he also filed another application asking for a stay of execution to allow Nagaenthran to be assessed by a panel of psychiatrists.

However, the court dismissed the legal actions, saying the case was baseless and that there was no admissible evidence of any decline in Nagaenthran’s mental condition.

It also said the proceedings amounted to an abuse of the court’s processes and were seemingly conducted with the aim of delaying the execution. - FMT, 26/5/2022

 

Lawyers for Malaysian drug trafficker ordered to pay $20,000 for incurring unnecessary costs

The court has the power to order personal costs against a lawyer who causes the incurring of unnecessary costs. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The two lawyers who acted for Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam in a last-ditch attempt to halt his execution were on Wednesday (May 25) ordered to pay $20,000 in costs to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).

Mr M. Ravi, who did most of the work, was ordered by the Court of Appeal to bear 75 per cent of the costs, while Ms Violet Netto, who later took over as the lawyer on record, was held liable for 25 per cent.

The AGC had originally sought personal costs totalling $40,000 against Mr Ravi and Ms Netto for setting out to delay Nagaenthran's execution by filing unmeritorious applications, which caused it to incur unnecessary costs.

Under the law, the court has the power to order personal costs against a lawyer who causes the incurring of unnecessary costs by acting improperly, unreasonably or negligently.

On Wednesday, a five-judge Court of Appeal, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, said it would be apparent to any reasonable defence counsel that the case advanced by the duo lacked factual basis.

The court reiterated that the way the case had been conducted was a blatant and egregious abuse of the court process.

Instead of putting their best case forward at the first instance, the lawyers "drip fed" the supposed evidence and tendered documents at the last possible moment, said the court.

The court also rejected Mr Ravi's argument that he and Ms Netto cannot be made to pay personal costs as they are no longer practising lawyers.

Nagaenthran was convicted of trafficking 42.72g of heroin in 2010 and given the mandatory death penalty. His appeals against his conviction and sentence were dismissed in 2011.

Over the years, Nagaenthran filed a total of seven applications to challenge his death sentence.

Days before he was scheduled to be hanged on Nov 10 last year, Mr Ravi filed an applicaton seeking judicial review of the impending execution.

Mr Ravi also filed another application, asking for a stay of execution for Nagaenthran to be assessed by a panel of psychiatrists.

The main argument was that the death sentence could not be carried out because Nagaenthran was mentally disabled.

The case was argued by Ms Netto, assisted by Mr Ravi, before the apex court on March 1.

On March 29, the court dismissed the legal actions, saying that the case was baseless and that there was no admissible evidence of any decline in Nagaenthran's mental condition.

The court said the proceedings brought by Nagaenthran amounted to an abuse of the court's processes and had been conducted with seeming aim of delaying his execution.

On April 26, a last-minute application by Nagaenthran's mother to halt his rescheduled execution was dismissed by the court.

He was hanged at Changi Prison Complex on April 27. - Straits Times, 25/5/2022

Monday, May 30, 2022

Singapore EX TEMPORE Judgment - where court ordered lawyers in death penalty CRIMINAL case to pay cost personally to Attorney General

 

In the COURT OF APPEAL of the republic of singapore
[2022] SGCA 44
Civil Appeal No 61 of 2021 
 
Between
 
Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam… Appellant
And
Attorney-General… Respondent
 
In the matter of Originating Summons No 1109 of 2021
Between
Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam… Plaintiff
And
Attorney-General… Defendant
 
Criminal Motion No 30 of 2021
Between
Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam… Applicant
And
Public Prosecutor… Respondent
 
EX TEMPOre Judgment
 
[Criminal Procedure and Sentencing — Compensation and costs — Prosecution urging court to make costs order against defence counsel personally]
[Civil Procedure — Costs — Personal liability of solicitor for costs]

This judgment is subject to final editorial corrections approved by the court and/or redaction pursuant to the publisher’s duty in compliance with the law, for publication in LawNet and/or the Singapore Law Reports.
 
Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam
v
Attorney-General and another matter
[2022] SGCA 44
Court of Appeal — Civil Appeal No 61 of 2021 and Criminal Motion No 30 of 2021

Sundaresh Menon CJ, Andrew Phang Boon Leong JCA, Judith Prakash JCA, Belinda Ang Saw Ean JAD and Chao Hick Tin SJ

25 May 2022
26 May 2022 
 
Sundaresh Menon CJ (delivering the judgment of the court ex tempore):
 
Introduction
 
1 On 29 March 2022, the Court of Appeal (“the CA”) dismissed both Civil Appeal No 61 of 2021 (“CA 61”) and Criminal Motion No 30 of 2021 (“CM 30”) in Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Attorney-General and another matter [2022] SGCA 26 (“the Judgment”). In the Judgment at [70], the CA gave leave to the parties to raise by notice in writing any question of costs within seven days of the date of the Judgment. On 12 April 2022, the CA directed, among other things, that (a) the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”) was to file and serve its written submissions on costs by 26 April 2022, and (b) Ms L F Violet Netto (“Ms Netto”) and Mr Ravi s/o Madasamy (“Mr Ravi”) were to file and serve their reply written submissions on costs within two weeks from the filing and service of AGC’s submission on costs. 
 
2 By way of its written submissions dated 26 April 2022, AGC sought personal costs orders against both Mr Ravi and Ms Netto as follows:
(a) In respect of CA 61, Mr Ravi and Ms Netto are to be jointly and severally liable for costs of $30,000; and
(b) In respect of CM 30, Mr Ravi and Ms Netto are to be jointly and severally liable for costs of $10,000. 
 
3 On 12 May 2022, Mr Ravi filed a document entitled “Applicant’s Submissions on Costs”. On the same day, AGC stated that it had no objections to the late filing of Mr Ravi’s submissions. 
In the said document, Mr Ravi purported to submit, on behalf of Ms Netto and himself, that it is not just, in all the circumstances, to order personal costs against Ms Netto and him. Mr Ravi also stated that “a separate consideration should apply to [Ms Netto]”, though it is not clear what Mr Ravi meant by this. On 13 May 2022, we directed that (a) Ms Netto was to confirm that the submissions were filed on her behalf, and (b) Mr Ravi was to state the basis on which he purported to file the submissions on behalf of Ms Netto by 18 May 2022. On 18 May 2022, Ms Netto clarified by way of letter that the submissions were filed in Mr Ravi’s personal capacity and not on her behalf. 
 
4 At the hearing before us today, Ms Netto appeared some ten minutes or so after we had started the proceedings. Shortly before the hearing, she had tendered a medical certificate which was not valid for excusing the subject of the certificate from attendance in court. This was issued yesterday but for unknown reasons was only advanced today. In any event, she made it clear she was not requesting an adjournment and said only that she was associating herself with Mr Ravi’s position.
 
Our decision
 
5 In our judgment, this is an appropriate case in which personal costs orders ought to be made against both Mr Ravi and Ms Netto. 
 
6 We begin by setting out the legal principles pertaining to personal costs orders against counsel. 
 
7 For CA 61, the relevant provision is O 59 r 8(1)(c) of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) (“ROC”). This provision empowers the court to order costs against solicitors personally where costs have been incurred “unreasonably or improperly” in any proceedings or have been “wasted by failure to conduct proceedings with reasonable competence and expedition”. As summarised most recently by the CA in Munshi Rasal v Enlighten Furniture Decoration Co Pte Ltd [2021] 1 SLR 1277 (“Munshi Rasal”) at [17]: 
 
… The applicable test in deciding whether to order costs against a solicitor personally is the three-step test set out by the English Court of Appeal in Ridehalgh v Horsefield [1994] Ch 205 at 231, which has been endorsed by this court in Tang Liang Hong v Lee Kuan Yew and another and other appeals [1997] 3 SLR(R) 576 at [71] and Ho Kon Kim v Lim Gek Kim Betsy and others and another appeal [2001] 3 SLR(R) 220 at [58]:
(a) Has the legal representative of whom complaint is made acted improperly, unreasonably or negligently?
(b) If so, did such conduct cause the applicant to incur unnecessary costs?
(c) If so, is it in all the circumstances just to order the legal representative to compensate the applicant for the whole or any part of the relevant costs?
 
8 In relation to CM 30, the court hearing criminal proceedings has the power under s 357(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 (2020 Rev Ed) (“CPC”) or its inherent powers to order that defence counsel pay costs directly to the Prosecution (see the decision of the CA in Abdul Kahar bin Othman v Public Prosecutor [2018] 2 SLR 1394 (“Abdul Kahar”) at [77]–[80]). In Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin v Public Prosecutor [2021] 2 SLR 377 (“Syed Suhail”) at [16], [18]–[19] and [21], the CA found that the principles developed in the context of civil cases, which were outlined at [7] above, were of general application as well, with the ultimate question being whether it was just in all the circumstances to make such a personal costs order. 
 
9 The approach to be taken to the words “improperly”, “unreasonably” and “negligently” is as follows (see Syed Suhail at [20], citing Ridehalgh v Horsefield [1994] Ch 205 at 232–233):
 
‘Improper’ … covers, but is not confined to, conduct which would ordinarily be held to justify disbarment, striking off, suspension from practice or other serious professional penalty. It covers any significant breach of a substantial duty imposed by a relevant code of professional conduct. But it is not in our judgment limited to that. Conduct which would be regarded as improper according to the consensus of professional (including judicial) opinion can be fairly stigmatised as such whether or not it violates the letter of a professional code.
 
‘Unreasonable’ … aptly describes conduct which is vexatious, designed to harass the other side rather than advance the resolution of the case, and it makes no difference that the conduct is the product of excessive zeal and not improper motive. But conduct cannot be described as unreasonable simply because it leads in the event to an unsuccessful result or because other more cautious legal representatives would have acted differently. The acid test is whether the conduct permits of a reasonable explanation. If so, the course adopted may be regarded as optimistic and as reflecting on a practitioner’s judgment, but it is not unreasonable.
… [The term] ‘negligent’ should be understood in an untechnical way to denote failure to act with the competence reasonably to be expected of ordinary members of the profession.
 
10 In this regard, we note that in Bintai Kindenko Pte Ltd v Samsung C&T Corp [2018] 2 SLR 532 (“Bintai Kindenko”) at [67], the CA was of the view that one situation where a solicitor may be regarded as having acted improperly, unreasonably or negligently, such that a personal costs order pursuant to O 59 r 8(1) of the ROC may be made, is “where the solicitor advances a wholly disingenuous case or files utterly ill-conceived applications even though the solicitor ought to have known better and advised his client against such a course of action.” 
 
11 We approach the present matter with those principles in mind. Specifically, we consider whether Mr Ravi and Ms Netto acted improperly, unreasonably or negligently by considering the following questions:
(a) Did Mr Ravi and Ms Netto advance arguments which were unsustainable?
(b) Did Mr Ravi and Ms Netto act in such a manner to frustrate the lawful process of execution in abuse of the court’s processes?
(c) If so, did such conduct cause AGC to incur unnecessary costs?
(d) If so, is it in all the circumstances just to order Mr Ravi and Ms Netto to compensate AGC for the whole or any part of the relevant costs?
 
12 Turning to the first question, in the Judgment, we explained in considerable detail why there was no basis for CA 61 and CM 30. In the Judgment at [33]–[34], we held there was no admissible evidence showing any decline in the appellant’s mental condition after the commission of the offence. In OS 1109, all that was before the court was the bare assertion of Mr Ravi as to the appellant’s mental age. This evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible. Mr Ravi himself acknowledged that he had no medical expertise and it cannot be disputed that his purported opinion appeared to be based on a single interaction with the appellant over the course of the last three years, which lasted less than half an hour. In CM 30, we also explained why Mr Navinkumar’s evidence was wholly unreliable (see the Judgment at [48]–[50]). 
 
13 These factual weaknesses and problems with the case would have been apparent to any reasonable defence counsel. 
 
14 Mr Ravi contended that it was because of his lack of medical expertise that he sought experts overseas to determine the appellant’s medical condition, but this fails to address the nub of the issue which is that the proceedings were undertaken when there was no factual basis. Proceedings may not be instituted on the basis of speculation. In any event, we also noted in our judgment that none of the appellant’s experts had examined or even spoken to the appellant or had seen the appellant’s present medical reports (see the Judgment at [54]). Coupled with the evidence of the prison officer in charge of observing the appellant (see the Judgment at [35] and [50]), we think that it should have been apparent to any reasonably diligent defence counsel that CA 61 and CM 30 lacked factual basis. Further, as we also highlighted in the Judgment at [36]–[37], in so far as there was highly probative evidence to aid the court’s assessment of the appellant’s mental condition, objections were mounted on the appellant’s behalf to prevent the court from accessing that evidence. 
 
15 Mr Ravi also submitted that novel issues and questions of public importance were raised, but this is irrelevant without a relevant substratum of facts to support raising those issues and questions before the court. In the present case, there is simply no relevant substratum of facts. 
 
16 Aside from this, in our Judgment, we had also traced the timeline of events which led us to find that the proceedings constituted a blatant and egregious abuse of the court’s processes (see the Judgment at [8]–[24]). This is not the occasion to repeat all that we have said. But we do observe, for example, that instead of putting their best case forward at the first instance, Mr Ravi and Ms Netto each drip-fed the supposed evidence and arguments. For instance, upon the court declining his request on 9 November 2021 for an adjournment, Mr Ravi then sought to file two expert reports dated 5 November 2021 and 7 November 2021 respectively. To date, Mr Ravi has also failed to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why the evidence of Mr Navinkumar was not provided to the court earlier when the same could have been provided to the appellant’s expert days before. As for Ms Netto, no explanation was provided for her tendering of a speaking note and further expert report at the last possible moment, during the hearing on 1 March 2022 itself. As we observed in the Judgment at [24]: 
… when every single action on the part of one party is done in a manner that is contrary to the applicable rules and contrary even to basic expectations of fairness to the other party and of courtesy to the court, it becomes difficult to accept that there is an innocent explanation for this. This is heightened when either no explanations are offered, or explanations that are offered are shown to be untrue.
17 In this light, it is simply impossible to contend that the AGC did not incur unnecessary costs.
 
18 This leads to the question of whether it is just to make the order. Mr Ravi first contended that such an order could not be made against a solicitor who is no longer practising. No authority was cited and we think this is because it is a plainly bad point. The court imposes a personal costs order to reprobate the unsatisfactory conduct of counsel appearing before it. The fact that counsel subsequently ceases or is unable to practice cannot affect the ability of the court to make such an order.
 
19 Mr Ravi also made some general comments and submissions to the effect that this would constitute a reprisal against the Bar and claimed that both advocates and forensic psychiatrists were being chilled and discouraged from taking on engagements to act for accused persons if such orders were made. With respect, this was a baseless submission. No person, psychiatrist or lawyer, has a licence to appear before a court and act improperly; and if the making of an adverse costs order would deter such conduct, then that is precisely what the power is there for.
 
20 We turn finally to the quantum of costs. We have outlined the AGC’s costs submissions, but we do not accept this as it stands. Although AGC has referenced the Costs Guidelines and asked for costs of $30,000 for CA 61 which falls at the lower end of those guidelines, and $10,000 for CM 30, we consider that costs orders of $15,000 for CA 61 and $5,000 for CM 30 are appropriate because the facts in this case were not complex (as can be seen from the short reply affidavits tendered by AGC) and the applications in CA 61 and CM 30 concerned the same factual matrix and essentially made very similar arguments, which was in fact a point we noted in explaining that there was an abuse of process. 
 
21 We also disagree with AGC’s submission that Mr Ravi and Ms Netto should be jointly and severally liable for the costs incurred in the proceedings. AGC does not contend that Ms Netto was involved in the commencement and conduct of CA 61 and CM 30 prior to 17 January 2022. It is not clear then, why she should bear responsibility or the attendant consequences for actions in which she played no part. Conversely, for conduct which took place after 17 January 2022, notwithstanding Mr Ravi’s plainly substantial role (such as in drafting the consolidated submissions and in apparently giving instructions to Ms Netto throughout the course of the hearing; see the Judgment at [22]), it was Ms Netto who was the solicitor on record. In short, and without more, we do not think that Mr Ravi’s and Ms Netto’s conduct of the proceedings, when they were each the solicitor on record at different points in time, can or should be attributable to the other.
 
22 In the circumstances, we consider that Mr Ravi and Ms Netto should each be liable only for the costs incurred and wasted as a result of their personal conduct during their respective periods acting as the appellant’s solicitor on record. AGC has provided a breakdown of the work it undertook for CA 61 and CM 30 and it appears that the majority of the work undertaken by AGC took place before the change in solicitor, and is therefore attributable to Mr Ravi’s initiation and conduct of the proceedings, rather than to Ms Netto’s subsequent continuance of the proceedings. 
 
23 In all the circumstances, we hold that:
(a) For CA 61, a costs order of $15,000 is appropriate. Mr Ravi and Ms Netto should be liable for 75% of the costs ($11,250) and 25% of the costs ($3,750) respectively.


(b) For CM 30, a costs order of $5,000 is appropriate. Mr Ravi and Ms Netto should be liable for 75% of the costs ($3,750) and 25% of the costs ($1,250) respectively.
 
Sundaresh Menon

Chief Justice
Andrew Phang Boon Leong

Justice of the Court of Appeal
Judith Prakash

Justice of the Court of Appeal
Belinda Ang Saw Ean

Judge of the Appellate Division
Chao Hick Tin

Senior Judge

The appellant in CA/CA 61/2021 and applicant in CA/CM 30/2021 not in attendance and unrepresented;
Wong Woon Kwong, Tan Wee Hao and Andre Chong (Attorney-General’s Chambers) for the respondent in CA/CA 61/2021 and CA/CM 30/2021.
Back to Top

This judgment text has undergone conversion so that it is mobile and web-friendly. This may have created formatting or alignment issues. Please refer to the PDF copy for a print-friendly version.

Source:-  https://www.elitigation.sg/gd/s/2022_SGCA_44

Thursday, May 26, 2022

8 Groups Statement - SUHAKAM ‘dead’ with no HR Commissioners for 1 Month is unacceptable

 

Media Statement – 27/5/2022

SUHAKAM ‘dead’ with no HR Commissioners for 1 Month is unacceptable

We, the 8 undersigned organizations and groups are perturbed that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) has ceased to function when the term of office of the previous Chairman and SUHAKAM Commissioners came to an end on 27/4/2022, and to date no new Chairpersons and HR Commissioners have been appointed.

Without any HR Commissioners, SUHAKAM cannot play the vital role it has been playing in Malaysia. They can make no SUHAKAM statements, recommendations to the government or even hold public inquiries. Human Rights suffers.

A media report on 11/5/2022, stated that the ‘…Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) is conducting an investigation into alleged human rights violations against junior doctors at public hospitals in Malaysia…’ raises a fundamental question, as to how SUHAKAM, with NO Commissioners at present, can even make such a statement. SUHAKAM employees reasonably cannot act on their own if and when there are no Commissioners. (FMT, 11/5/2022).

SUHAKAM is a statutory body created by reason of the Human Rights Commission Of Malaysia Act 1999, and the Commission is made up of the appointed HR Commissioners, appointed for a 3-year term. When there are NO Commissioners, as had been the case for the past month, SUHAKAM ceases to function, and will not be able to do anything including issuing  statements, appointing and also providing directions to SUHAKAM’s staff/employees.

Noting the important role that SUHAKAM has been playing in Malaysia, in terms of the promotion and defense of human rights, it is an embarrassment for SUHAKAM to find itself in a comatose stage by reason of a failure of government to ensure that SUHAKAM always have Commissioners.

It must be pointed out that the process of identifying and selecting new SUHAKAM Commissioners began in October 2021, and so the failure of the appointment of Chairperson and new Commissioners on or before the end of the term of previous Commissioners on 27/4/2022.

The choice of the future Chairperson and SUHAKAM Commissioners is crucial, for that determines the future functioning and effectiveness of the National Human Rights Institution.

In the past, from the birth of SUHAKAM, its effectiveness was not so evident but it changed after Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (2010-2016), and later Tan Sri Dato' Razali bin Ismail(2016-2019)  were appointed as Chairpersons of SUHAKAM. The strong effective SUHAKAM continued on until April 2022.

The number of Commissioners who will act without fear or favour for human rights in SUHAKAM is crucial, for all decisions of SUHAKAM requires consensus failing which the decision by a two-thirds majority of the members present at meetings shall be required. If the wrong kinds of Commissioners are appointed, we may end up with a less vocal, possibly ‘pro-government’ SUHAKAM who may be disinclined to speak up when required, or even hold public inquiries, more so when the alleged perpetrators may be State or State officers.

If the wrong Chairperson and Commissioners are chosen, there may be no more public inquiries on matters of human rights, like the Public Inquiry Into The Disapperances Of Joshua Hilmy And Ruth Sitepu, Public Inquiry Into The Disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh And Amri Che Mat, Public inquiry into the incidents during and after the public assembly of 28 april 2012, Public Inquiry into the Infringement of Human Rights Including the Use of Excessive Force Prior to and During the Assembly on 9 July 2011, Public Inquiry Into The Arrest And Detention Of Five Lawyers Of The Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre on 7 May 2009, Public Inquiry Into The Allegation Of Excessive Use Of Force By Law Enforment Personnel During The Incident Of 27th May 2008 At Persiaran Bandar Mahkota Cheras 1, Bandar Mahkota Cherasil and inquiries into death in custody.  

The days when the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) was effectively an independent organisation which investigates complaints for the violation of human rights may come to an end.

We hope that the members of the Commission appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the recommendation of the Prime Minister are done without any more delay.

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of the 8 groups/organizations listed below

 

ALIRAN

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Greenpeace Malaysia

International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)

NAMM (Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia)

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

 

Suhakam left with no commissioners for third time

Mah Weng Kwai says having no commissioners will affect advocacy work and maintaining the good standing of Suhakam.

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) does not have any commissioners after their term expired yesterday, similar to what happened twice previously.

Former commissioner Mah Weng Kwai said a selection committee met on Monday and the process would take some time.

“As of today, there are no commissioners and this will affect advocacy work and maintaining the good standing of Suhakam,” he told FMT.

Mah said only the Suhakam management functioned and no policy decisions could be made.

There are nine commissioners who have a three-year term from 2019.

Five, including Mah, a former Court of Appeal judge, served two terms, the maximum allowed under the Suhakam Act.

The other four – Osman Hashim, Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, Madeline Berma and Hishamudin Md Yunus – could be reappointed for another term.

FMT understands that Hishamudin, also a retired Court of Appeal judge, had expressed his wish not to be reappointed.

Mah said that three years ago, it took the government two months to appoint the commissioners.

“It is in the best interest of the public that the commission is up and running at all times as there are always serious challenges on human rights issues like the threat to the independence of the judiciary,” he said.

In 2016, under Najib Razak’s administration, Suhakam was also left without commissioners for almost two months. - FMT, 27/4/2022

 

Five Suhakam commissioners complete two service terms
Published:  Apr 27, 2022 10:22 AM
Updated: 10:25 AM

Five Suhakam members completed their second term at the human rights commission yesterday.

They are Mah Weng Kwai, Jerald Joseph, Nik Salida Suhaila Nik Saleh, Lok Yim Pheng and Godfrey Gregory Joitol.

All five started their tenure as Suhakam commissioners in 2016 during then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak's administration.

Each term lasts three years. Section 5(4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 (Suhakam Act) does not allow a third term.

Four other commissioners completed their first term including Othman Hashim (outgoing chairperson), Madeline Berma, Mohd Hishamuddin Md Yunus and Noor Aziah Mohd Awal.

Putrajaya has yet to announce the list of replacement commissioners.

Suhakam members are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the recommendation of the prime minister in consultation with an appointment committee chaired by the chief secretary of the government.

According to Section 11 of the Suhakam Act, the committee must also consist of the chairperson of Suhakam and three members of civil society who have practical experience in human rights matters, appointed by the prime minister.

In previous cycles, there have been incidents where there will be a gap of several months before a new batch of commissioners is appointed. - Malaysiakini, 27/4/2022