The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has filed a disciplinary complaint against human rights lawyer, M Ravi (Ravi), to the Law Society of Singapore (LSS) over “possible professional misconduct”.
This complaint by the AGC, was apparently filed after Ravi did not acquiesce to demands by the AGC to apologise and unconditionally retract comments that he made in an interview given to independent media outlet, The Online Citizen (TOC) in relation to the overturning of the death penalty meted out to his client, Gobi Avedian (Gobi). Apparently the AGC took great umbrage to Ravi saying, among other things, that the prosecution had been “overzealous” in handling his client’s case.
Ravi is a defence lawyer, acting in the best interests of his client. In view of that, what is wrong with him giving his opinion now that the case is over? Surely, he is allowed an opinion based on his personal experience on this matter? Is the AGC saying that no one has a right to an opinion that it does not like? And if so, does it have the right to do so?
The AGC has already declared that Ravi’s claims were “categorically false” and that he had “sought to mischaracterise the reasons for the decision issued by the Court of Appeal”. Isn’t that enough? Ravi gave his opinion and the AGC responded – case close right? Why is the AGC so seemingly petty in going after an opinion with so much vengeance?
Plus, if Ravi did mischaracterise the Court of Appeal’s decision, surely that is for the Court of Appeal to address and not the AGC?
By acting in such a manner, the AGC could be perceived like a petulant child throwing his toys out of his pram. Is this a perception that the AGC would want the public to have?
For those unaware, Gobi was initially sentenced to hang at the High Court. On appeal, Chief Justice Menon held that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gobi had a clear, grounded and targeted suspicion that what he was told or led to believe about the nature of the drugs was untrue.
Furthermore, the written judgement noted the Prosecution had ran a different case in its appeal.
It wrote that the Prosecution’s case against the Applicant at the trial was not one of actual knowledge, but one of wilful blindness. “On the other hand, it is undisputed that the Prosecution’s case on appeal was one of actual knowledge”.
In reversing their previous conviction of the death sentence, the judges wrote,
“In the present case, the change between the case that was run by the Prosecution at the trial and the case that it ran on appeal was not a point that was raised by the Applicant. As we have noted ( see [ 46] above), it was brought up by us, having considered the potential significance of Adili ( supra). Having reviewed the submissions that were made on this in response to our invitation, and in the light of the change in the legal position effected by this judgment, we are satisfied that the Prosecution’s change in the case that it ran on appeal, as compared to the case that it ran at the trial, prejudiced the Applicant.”
“While we disbelieved the Applicant’s case on this point in CCA 20/2017, that was in the context of considering whether the presumption of actual knowledge under s 18(2) had been rebutted. That conclusion can no longer stand because it is now clear that the Applicant was faced at the trial not with a case of actual knowledge, but with one of wilful blindness. As a result, he was never squarely confronted with the case that he did not in fact believe what he had been told by Vinod and Jega, and so could not have responded to such a case.”…
…”Moreover, given that the Prosecution’s case at the trial was run on the basis that the Applicant did not have actual knowledge of the nature of the Drugs but was wilfully blind in this regard, recourse to the s 18(2) presumption was foreclosed to the Prosecution (see (56] above). However, our decision on conviction in CCA 20/2017 was premised on the holding that the Applicant had failed to rebut the s 18(2) presumption (see  and [I 7]-(20] above). That holding can no longer form the basis of the Applicant’s conviction on the capital charge”…
…”In our judgment, given that the Prosecution did not establish or even suggest that the Applicant in fact disbelieved what he had been told about the nature of the Drugs or suspected that what he had been told was untrue, his failure to make further inquiries amounts, at its highest, to negligence or recklessness. This is insufficient to constitute the mens rea of the capital charge.”
Most people would agree that life is sacrosanct. With this in mind, our legal system should be celebrating the fact that a man has not been hanged as a result of insufficient prove. Had Ravi not acted for Gobi, he would already be dead – dead despite the requisite burden of proof not being met.
Why then is the AGC reacting like a teenager whose ego has been bruised? Shouldn’t it not be grateful that a man’s life has been saved? Unless of course, the AGC places its ego over the life of a man?
The AGC made a prosecutorial decision to prosecute Gobi on the evidence that it had and then went on to appeal for the death sentence after the trial judge decided to convict Gobi on a lesser charge trafficking in a “Class C” controlled drug, with a sentence of 15-years’ imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane.
In considering the circumstances of the case and that the Prosecution ran a different case at the appeal which contributed to the reversal of the trial judge’s ruling, the Court of Appeal has held that it was not enough to discharge the requisite burden of proof.
In this instance, is it that far fetched to hold the opinion that the prosecution may have been misguidedly over zealous? Why then go after a lawyer simply for stating an opinion that does not logically sound unreasonable?
Ravi has responded to the AGC’s complaint by saying that its complaint was “abusing the process”.
“The Attorney-General is abusing the process, as a complaint to the Law Society will land in a disciplinary tribunal, because the Chief Justice has no discretion but is mandated by Parliament to convene a disciplinary tribunal”
Is the AGC utilising technicalities to serve a personal agenda?
The AGC is funded by the public via tax-monies, do we the public agree with our resources being spent in such a seemingly spurious manner? Do we give consent to the AGC using OUR public money and resources in this manner?
Ravi’s comment may well be irritating to the AGC. But is it so serious as to merit such an overreaction from the AGC?
By taking this action, the AGC is lending credence to opinion that it is indeed “over zealous”.
This massive overreaction could also be viewed as an attempt to go after Ravi for daring to mount a lawsuit against the Attorney General and a Superintendent of Changi Prison “to interrogate prison and AG on various matters in a pre-action discovery”.
If so, it could be a misuse of state resources and could have serious repercussion on public trust in the AGC.