Lawyer M Ravi who had been ordered to stop practising in February 2015 is prohibited from applying for a practicing certificate for the next 2 years, the Court of Appeal has decided.
The Court said in its judgment released on 27 Oct, this was necessary to safeguard the interests of the public and to uphold public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.
Mr Ravi’s case had been brought before the Court of Appeal after he had pleaded guilty to four charges of misconduct before a disciplinary tribunal last year.
The tribunal, in its report released in December 2015 had recommended Mr Ravi’s case to the Court of Three Judges, pointing out that it had no power to fine or censure Mr Ravi as he was being dealt with as a non-practising lawyer.
Mr Sean La’Brooy, the solicitor for the Law Society, did not object to a fine, but asked a higher amount of at least S$5,000 for each offence, stating that his condition should not absolve him.
The three judges that had heard the case — CJ Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang — reserved judgment on 6 Sep.
CJ Menon described Mr Ravi’s conduct as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘disturbing’, then asked: “Are we not going to hold a solicitor to the standards expected of him? ... The whole thing may have been avoided if Mr Ravi had taken the doctor’s advice ... Should we say because he has a medical condition, we punish him differently?”
And Justice Phang asked if Mr Ravi’s condition was being used as a ‘justification’.
“There is a wider public interest that cannot be ignored,” he said.
The Court had other options besides forbidding Mr Ravi from practicing. Included in these options are to censure him, to order him to pay a penalty of not more than $20,000, or to strike his name off the roll of lawyers.
In delivering the verdict, CJ Menon said that the Court was presented with a situation where Mr Ravi has a mental condition which has in the past caused him to act in a manner unbecoming of a lawyer. He said that there is a possibility that this may happen again in the future.
The verdict read, “In this circumstances, we consider that anything short of prohibiting the respondent for a substantial period of time from applying for a practicing certificate would be inadequate.”
In response to the verdict, Mr Ravi commented on his Facebook,
The Court of Appeal handed out a judgement today prohibiting me from practising law for a period of two years. I have already been out of practice for more
than 18 months. My doctor had certified me fit to practice since December last year.The Law Society had in fact approved my application for Practising Certificate in August 2016. However, the Attorney General objected to application for a Practising Certificate. During the hearing before the Court of Appeal the Law Society had agreed that a fine is an appropriate penalty in line with the recommendation made by the Disciplinary Tribunal below.
I accept that I did not behave appropriately when I was unwell. However, the Court of Appeal's Judgment is acutely disproportionate in view of the Disciplinary Tribunal's recommendation of a fine. The effect of the Court of Appeal's judgment means I am put of of Practice of Law for close to 4 years.
However,inasmuch I am devastated, this will not deter me from continuing my work in the field of international human rights and constitutional law and contribute to society where I can. To this extent, I will continue my work by assisting the firm of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP in my current role as a Head of Knowledge Management and Strategic Alliance Division.
Thank you for your support and encouragement all these while!"