On Tuesday (21 Mar), the Court of Three Judges handed lawyer M Ravi a five-year suspension for misconduct, which was the maximum possible sanction for lawyers.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon delivered the decision and stated that no solicitor can be permitted to “recklessly and baselessly undermine the very pillars of the legal system in which he operates”.
Mr Ravi was accused for “grave and baseless accusations of improper conduct” against the Attorney-General, officers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and the Law Society (LawSoc).
Chief Justice said in a 42-page-judgement that Mr Ravi did not apologize for his misconduct during the hearing, but instead, he appeared to reinforce his allegations against LawSoc and the AG.
The whole tenor of Mr Ravi’s arguments suggested that he viewed himself as a victim of what he perceived to be a “dishonourable system” that allowed for “the improper abuse of prosecutorial power by the AG”, Chief Justice Menon added.
“Within this allegedly unjust and oppressive system, Mr Ravi cast himself as someone who was simply ‘zealously pursuing’ … (his) cause (and) the oath (he had) taken to the rule of law,” said Chief Justice Menon.
He said the court consider it not necessary to strike Mr Ravi off the roll of advocates and solicitors given the circumstances.
However, he noted that imposing anything less than the maximum term of suspension currently permitted would be insufficient in addressing the “continuing danger” Mr Ravi poses to public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore due to his “baseless and ill-conceived attacks”.
Mr Ravi has been a lawyer for 20 years, advocating for those on death row.
‘Dedicate my 20 years to the cause of human rights and access to justice in Singapore’
In response to the latest court judgment, Mr Ravi commented on Facebook that he chose to dedicate his 20 years to the cause of human rights and access to justice in Singapore at a huge personal cost.
“I have no regrets. I have my international law practices in a few countries. I will continue to positively contribute to these countries through my ESG work whilst I enjoy the support of fellow lawyers and the love of the people in these countries.”
Instead, he said he was pleased to have reopened a death penalty case and saved at least one life (the case of drug runner Gobi Avedian) during his two-and-a-half-year return to practice.
“I remember vividly that day when the Court of Appeal acknowledged that it made a mistake where Gobi ‘s case became the first death penalty case in Singapore to be reopened on the ground of miscarriage of justice. ”
“Both Gobi and myself in court were so overwhelmed with tears with the result and I look forward to meeting Gobi next year in Malaysia when he is released, ” Mr Ravi recalled.
The Court of Three Judges’ judgement also read:
“Mr Ravi even went so far as to impugn the profession as a whole during his oral submissions, stating that he “[did] not feel any more part of an honourable profession” [emphasis added]. This was an attack on the standing and integrity of the legal profession insinuating, without any basis, that the profession was not honourable or at least did not meet Mr Ravi ’s standards of honourable conduct.”
Mr Ravi said he would leave it to the court of public opinion to interpret the quote.
The proceedings resulted from an interview in October 2020, when Mr Ravi gave to The Online Citizen regarding the case he was handling for drug runner Gobi Avedian.
This is the first death penalty case in Singapore to be successfully reopened and a death sentence set aside after a concluded appeal where all avenues have been closed.
During the interview, Mr Ravi made several allegations against the AG, Deputy AG and/or the Prosecutor, claiming that they were wrongdoers and that the family of Gobi had given him instructions to commence proceedings against them.
He also asked the state, the prosecution, and the minister of law to apologize to Gobi and claimed that the fairness of the prosecution was “called into question by the court itself”.
Following the interview, AGC sent a letter to Mr Ravi demanding that he retract his allegations.
Instead of removing the post, Mr Ravi published the letter on his Facebook page, rejected Deputy A-G demand for apology, and requested a public apology from the prosecution for Gobi instead.
Mr Ravi had also sent letters to the Law Society and the AG, Deputy AG and members of the prosecution team threatening proceedings against both the LSS for failing its duty to protect its members and the AG for allegedly failing in its duties to protect Gobi from being wrongfully executed.
In response to the suspension, Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, Human Rights Watch said, “Singapore’s hyper-sensitive judiciary and prosecutors have finally exacted their pound of flesh from M. Ravi in the latest round of their campaign of harassment and persecution of this outspoken human rights lawyer. In democracies around the world, it is expected that lawyers will speak their minds about the outcome of a trial they’ve been involved in but Singapore punishes such expression, and their society is poorer for it.”
“What’s truly sad is other lawyers will look at what happened to Ravi and be even more reluctant to represent cases out of favor with the Singapore authorities, including persons facing the death penalty on drug charges,” said Mr Robertson.