SINGAPORE – Speaking to the Chief Justice via Zoom video conference, human rights lawyer, Mr Ravi expressed his disappointment with the treatment he has received over the years as a lawyer in Singapore. He told the Chief Justice, “I no longer feel like I belong to an honorable profession.
The virtual hearing was set before the Tri-Judge Court (CTJ) last Wednesday (9 November) on an appeal filed by the Law Society of Singapore (LSS) against the findings of the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) – convened to hear on 3 of the 4 charges against Mr. Ravi who were released in December last year.
While the DT dismissed the first charge against Mr. Ravi, he found that the second, third and fourth charges were all established.
However, the DT considered that his conduct was not serious enough to warrant disciplinary action by referring him to the CTJ under Section 83 of the Legal Profession Act (LPA).
It therefore recommended that Mr. Ravi be instead ordered to pay a collective fine of $4,000 for the second and fourth counts and $2,000 for the third, for a total sum of $6,000. . Mr. Ravi did not appeal the DT’s judgment.
A fault serious enough to justify sanctions, according to LSS
LSS, in its appeal, argued that Mr. Ravi’s misconduct with respect to the three counts was serious enough to warrant the imposition of sanctions under section 83(1) of the LPA.
Appearing before the CTJ – the highest disciplinary body dealing with misconduct by lawyers, Ms Wendy Lin of Wong Partnership, who represented LSS as a lawyer, said what Mr Ravi had done constituted gross misconduct on the part of the from a lawyer and a lawyer.
She argued that Mr. Ravi had undermined the judicial system and the Law Society and warranted a sentence of suspension from practice. The LSS disagreed with the findings of its own disciplinary tribunal.
While Ms Lin initially urged the court to impose a three-month suspension order, she agreed that the appropriate sentence should be 15 months at CJ Menon’s request to find out if she was aware of the Zero Nalpon case which was suspended for 15 months for his Facebook posts. .
In April this year, Mr Naplon was found guilty of sub judice by alleging in a public Facebook group that a district judge plagiarized prosecution submissions.
LSS failed in duty to lawyers in Singapore, says Ravi
In his defense of the LSS’s claims against him, Mr Ravi told the court: “I didn’t come into the legal profession to make big money, join big companies and conduct international arbitrations to get rich. I only came with a mission to advance the rule of law without fear or favour.”
Mr Ravi chastised the Law Society telling the CJ that ‘LSS has failed in its duty to uphold the independence of the (Law) profession and failed in its mission statement to advance the rule of law’
In support of his criticism of the LSS above, Mr. Ravi pointed out that the LSS not only has the power to prosecute lawyers, but also the legal duty to protect the rights of lawyers in Singapore, which he said he failed to do.
Noting that the Law Society provided him with no assistance when the Office of the Attorney General (AGC) made threatening statements against him at a pre-trial conference (PTC) in the Gobi and Datchinamoorthy case in February 2020 .
During this PTC DPP Wong told the court that the Singapore government reserved all rights against Mr. M. Ravi personally (Reservation Statement). On this threatening “statement”, the Court of Appeal previously ruled in Gobi and Datchinamoorthy’s appeal that the statement of reservation made by DPP Wong Koon Wong on behalf of the Singapore government could be construed as reasonably intimidating.
Mr. Ravi referred to this decision and said that the Law Society failed to protect its members by remaining silent even after the Court’s decision and instead persecuted Mr. Ravi by bringing other actions against him when AG filed other complaints against him and continued his persecution by taking this appeal to the Three Judge Court when his own DT ruled in his favor.
The incidents that led to the four charges against Mr. Ravi relate to statements made by Mr. Ravi after the Court of Appeal, in a landmark judgment, overturned Gobi Avedian’s death sentence on the grounds that he is was a miscarriage of justice and admitted that his previous decision was wrong. This is the first death sentence case in Singapore to be successfully reopened and a death sentence quashed after a successful appeal where all avenues were closed.
Gobi previously filed for criminal review in light of the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Adili Chubuike Ejike case.
In Adil’s case, the Court of Appeal made a new interpretation of Article 18(1) according to which the prosecution cannot raise an inconsistent case of actual knowledge of drug possession and willful blindness as subsidiary ground if he failed to prove actual knowledge.
This inconsistency occurred in the Gobi case under MDA s.18(2), where the prosecution conducted an inconsistent case of actual knowledge and willful blindness.
Gobi passed the review in the appeals court and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 strokes of the cane, the original sentence handed down by the trial judge.
In an interview with TOC and in further correspondence with AGC, Mr. Ravi made several allegations against the AG, the Deputy AG and/or the Prosecutor claiming that they were wrongdoers and that Gobi’s family gave him instructions for taking legal action against them.
Following the interview, AGC sent a letter to Mr. Ravi asking him to withdraw his allegations.
Instead of deleting the post, Mr. Ravi posted the letter on his Facebook page.
Mr. Ravi had also sent letters to the Law Society and the AG, Deputy AG and members of the prosecution team threatening to sue both the LSS for failing in its duty to protect its members and the AG for allegedly failing in his duty to protect Gobi from being wrongfully executed.
Urging the court to impose a suspended sentence on Mr Ravi, Ms Lin said Mr Ravi had no remorse for what he had done.
Arguing that Mr Ravi had posted all the correspondence on his Facebook page with over 32,000 followers in a bid to galvanize public opinion and put pressure on the AGC.
She also informed the court that Mr. Ravi had multiple backgrounds and deserved a 15-month suspension.
Mr Ravi, who pleaded his own cause, said his actions were the result of the enormous pressure he faced from the AG and that he acted on impulse. He also said his retaliatory statements were fair criticism.
He told the court that galvanizing public opinion was an integral part of “advocating the cause” and that he had to rely on his social media for campaigning purposes. Since the AGC and the state have state media, the AGC should not be pressured by its Facebook followers.
Court of Appeal failed in duty when it failed to consider cases after new legal development, says Ms Ravi
Ravi then took his criticism to the Court of Appeal in its handling of Gobi’s case.
To this, Mr Ravi said that – if the Court of Appeal had departed from its own earlier interpretation of Article 18(1) of the MDA in the Adili case, it should have exercised its inherent powers and reviewing all death row cases of his own volition in order to ensure that prisoners like Gobi would be spared from the gallows.
Given the failure of the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal judges not to take proactive steps to review the cases, he had to file a criminal motion for Gobi which in effect led to the review of other similar cases involving sense of blindness.
Without his candidacy, Gobi would have been hanged, Mr Ravi said and pointed to this as a failure of the criminal justice system in calling for judicial reforms.
He said that in other countries there would have been a review of the justice system immediately in the event of a serious miscarriage of justice in a death penalty case.
To that extent, Mr. Ravi argues that the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal have abdicated their judicial responsibilities to review Gobi’s case on their own and review the records under the poses given to them under Section 394J(1)(b) which came into force in 2018.
Mr Ravi then questioned the Chief Justice on how he could go about filing a complaint against the judge given his complaint of the judge and the court of appeal for failing in his duties, which allegedly resulted in wrongful death had he not come into the picture.
There is no real judicial complaints mechanism in Singapore, Ravi said.
Mr. Ravi went further and pointed the finger at the Attorney General who he said should have requested a review of all cases under both Article 18(1) and Article 18(2) since the conclusion of the Adili case.
While CJ Menon disagreed with Mr. Ravi’s suggestion that the court and the Bar have been stripped of their powers, Mr. Ravi countered with the fact that a TD must be appointed when the AG files a complaint.
Mr Ravi argued that the Law Society and the CJ are powerless when they cannot consider the merits of the complaint even if the AG’s complaint is frivolous and are compelled by law to allow the complaint to go straight to the DT.
Mr. Ravi also asked those present at the hearing if anyone would like to step into his shoes to find out how difficult it was for him to handle all the death penalty and human rights cases in Singapore for nearly 20 years at enormous personal cost.
After a short adjournment, the court informs the parties that judgment is reserved.