Human rights lawyer M Ravi to contest Attorney-General’s complaint to Law Society regarding his legal arguments against race-based Prime Minister appointment

Human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy, more known as M Ravi, earlier this week expressed his intention to contest a complaint made by the Attorney-General to the Law Society on his legal arguments against the constitutionality of a race-based appointment of the Prime Minister.

In a Facebook post on Monday (31 August), Mr Ravi said that the A-G had urged the Society to commence a probe against him “for writing a Petition to the President and making legal arguments on the constitutionality of the appointment of the PM made on grounds of race”.

He expressed his surprise at the complaint, which alleged that he had “attacked the PM and the President”.

“I have not alleged anyone as racist here,” he said.

The legal arguments he made, said Mr Ravi, were based on his observations on the matter “as the issues engage the Constitutional Oaths taken by the PM, Cabinet and the President”.

“I will contest this complaint vigorously and I will alert the international community and UN on this matter,” he said.

Mr Ravi also criticised the Law Society’s purported silence on a ruling made by the Court of Appeal, in which the court decided that the A-G’s representatives’ threat in court against him tantamounted to intimidation.

“Why is the Law Society silent on this matter? Shouldn’t the Law Society take the AG’s lawyer to task for making the threat against me?” He questioned.

The Law Society’s Council is now required to apply to the Chief Justice to convene a Disciplinary Tribunal regarding Mr Ravi’s present case, in line with Section 85(3)(b) of the Legal Profession Act, as stipulated below.

Source: Singapore Statutes Online

The Act outlines the scope of the Law Society’s role and governs the conduct of solicitors and advocates in Singapore, among other matters.

AGC filed complaint to Law Society against M Ravi for ICJ memo to Malaysian government over Malaysian death row prisoner’s case last year

This is not the first time the AGC had lodged a complaint against Mr Ravi.

Last August, a complaint was made over his memo to the Malaysian government, in which he urged the Malaysian government to promptly bring the case of death row prisoner Nagaenthran s/o Dharmalingam to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Mr Nagaenthran was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2010 for trafficking not less than 42.72 grams of diamorphine into Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint in Apr 2009. The Court of Appeal rejected two of his appeals in May last year.

In the complaint — filed by AGC on 1 Aug last year and formally received by the Law Society the same day, and which was seen by TOC — the AGC accused M Ravi of making “baseless” and “false” statements.

Mr Ravi, AGC alleged, had attacked “State Prosecutors in Singapore, a sitting Judge of the State Courts of Singapore, and the Singapore Courts”, based on his note to the Malaysian government, as seen in his media statement on 23 July last year.

Among the refutations made by the AGC included stating that M Ravi had made “sweeping and unwarranted attacks” against Senior District Judge Bala Reddy, who was then a Principal Senior State Counsel or Chief Prosecutor at the AGC.

“Mr Ravi makes sweeping, false claims that SDJ Reddy made certain statements in 2010 that were biased against independent defence psychiatrists. However, Mr Ravi failed to explain what exactly these statements were, and when, where and in what context they were made,” said AGC.

The note added that Mr Ravi had also made what the AGC deemed as a baseless assertion regarding the Singapore Courts’ role in Mr Nagaenthran’s case.

In the AGC’s view, Mr Ravi implied the Courts “will not or did not correct the alleged breaches of his client’s rights”, and that the courts have failed or refused to “properly assess the expert reports tendered by the State Prosecutor”.

Citing Section 83(2)(h) of the Legal Practice Act, the AGC charged that Mr Ravi’s “conduct” is “calculated to prejudice the administration of justice, and is accordingly improper” for a lawyer, who is “a member of an honourable profession”.

“[T]he AG requests that the Council of the Law Society of Singapore refers the above information touching upon Mr Ravi’s conduct to a Disciplinary Tribunal, pursuant to Section 85(3)(b) of the LPA,” the note read.

Mr Ravi has since deleted the post and apologised for the entire matter the same day the post was published.

In a new Facebook post, Mr Ravi said that he “did not intend to prejudice the administration of justice” in making his previous claims, in addition to being willing to “unequivocally withdraw” the allegations he made in the note.

The Disciplinary Tribunal recommended a S$10,000 fine as a penalty against Mr Ravi in the case and is currently deliberating on the final amount.

AGC’s previous application against M Ravi found by Courts to be intimidating

The Court of Appeal judgement referred to by Mr Ravi, delivered on 13 August, found that the alleged threat made against Mr Ravi by the Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Woon Kwong “might reasonably have been construed as intimidating”.

The case pertains to Mr Ravi’s role as counsel for two Malaysian death row inmates who applied for a stay of execution.

The judgment read:

“The Statement itself indicates that Mr Wong was instructed to reserve the AG [Attorney General]’s rights, and these instructions must have come before the PTC (pre-trial conference) and not in response to Mr Ravi’s conduct during the PTC. The lack of specificity also meant that Mr Ravi was not aware of what he ought to refrain from doing to avoid the consequences.”

“In the circumstances, we think the Statement might reasonably have been construed as intimidating.”

Addressing this judgment in a Facebook Live video on the same day, Mr Ravi noted that the Court of Appeal also highlighted the observation made by Justice Valerie Thean in the High Court, in which she reasoned that “a specific reservation of costs would have served the technical purpose of giving notice and if there had been specificity, there would have been no opportunity for a misunderstanding between the parties”.

“What emanates from this judgement is the observation of the Court of Appeal on the observation by the High Court judge that this statement against me might be construed as discourteous and might be reasonably seen as intimidating,” said Mr Ravi.

He stressed that the two “cardinal principles” lawyers vowed to uphold is to defend their clients fearlessly and without favour.

“That particular part of the fearless advocacy is protected against the Latimer House guidelines that is observed amongst the Commonwealth nations,” said Mr Ravi.

The matter arose when Mr Wong requested for an application relating to the case to be heard on an urgent basis, stating that he was “also instructed to state that we are expressly reserving all our rights against Mr Ravi”, according to court documents sighted by TOC at a pre-trial conference on 4 February.

Mr Ravi revealed in his Facebook Live that this concerned him greatly, particularly due to the vagueness of the statement.

“I did highlight to the Court that it’s not just they are reserving rights against me. The A-G said that they are exploring all options available to the Government, and which I was very concerned about because this is very vague. It is a broad thread that emanated from the A-G,” said the lawyer.

He was “extremely gratified” and felt “vindicated” by the Court of Appeal’s decision on the matter.

In the Court of Appeal judgment sighted by TOC, it was found that there was nothing in Mr Ravi’s conduct to have triggered the threat from the prosecution.

However, the court also ruled that it did not find the statement made against Mr Ravi to be a breach of his clients’ right to counsel or a fair trial, contrary to what the lawyer had argued.

In February, Malaysia-based human rights group Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) urged Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to withdraw the alleged threat made against the Singaporean lawyer of the two Malaysian death row inmates.

LFL alleged in a statement on 5 February that the AGC had “launched an attack” upon M Ravi during a hearing in the High Court for the case filed by Datchinamurthy s/o Kataiah and Gobi s/o Avedian.

The application was made by the two Malaysian death row inmates against the Attorney-General and the Home Affairs Minister for the purpose of halting their execution and to provide protection for a former Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer who is willing to testify regarding their case.

LFL said in a statement said that “the all-powerful Singapore AGC is dangling the threat of criminal proceedings or punitive action upon M Ravi, should he proceed with this controversial case”.

“This is like a sword of Damocles left hanging upon M Ravi personally,” said the NGO.

The AGC previously countered allegations of any threat made by its representatives against Mr Ravi, saying that Mr Wong’s statement was “merely a salutary reminder to Mr Ravi to conduct himself properly”, adding that the act of reserving rights was a common legal parlance that did not amount to a threat.

Senior Counsel Francis Ng, who appeared on behalf of the A-G in one of the summons, said that the A-G “was merely keeping his options open, including the option of seeking costs personally against Mr Ravi”.

“In any event, no identifiable constitutional right had been breached,” he said.

“As for the allegation that the Statement breached the right to a fair hearing, there was no suggestion that the High Court could not conduct a fair hearing or that Mr Ravi could not act independently for the appellants. Mr Ravi had, in fact, continued to act for the appellants, and he must therefore have been unconcerned about the alleged threat,” he added.

 

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