SINGAPORE - The Law Society has taken the unusual step of explaining publicly its reasons for banning lawyer M. Ravi from practising.
It had issued the suspension to the 45-year-old, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, on Tuesday. It stated that Mr Ravi was to undergo professional assessment to determine that he was fit to continue as a lawyer.
Mr Ravi turned up at the society's headquarters a day later and allegedly created a scene, even claiming that the ban was triggered by his bid to stand for election. A 12-minute video of the incident was uploaded on YouTube.
In a press statement sent to the media on Wednesday, the society said it decided to respond "because Mr Ravi has made public allegations against the Law Society which are inaccurate".
Read the full statement below.
On 10 February 2015, pursuant to section 25C(7) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161) ("LPA"), the Council of the Law Society ("Council") directed Mr Ravi s/o Madasamy to stop practising with immediate effect until he submitted to a medical examination by Mr Ravi's attending psychiatrist or a certified consultant psychiatrist (the "Direction").
The Council notes that certain comments are being made in the public domain concerning the Direction, which may result in inaccuracies and untruths being propagated. The Council therefore considers that the following statement is necessary to set out the facts.
On 15 April 2014, Mr Ravi was issued with Practising Certificate No 4331/2014 ("PC") for the practice year 2014/2015 ending 31 March 2015. Mr Ravi's PC was issued by the Supreme Court subject to a number of conditions, including:
1. that the Law Society be entitled at all times to seek and obtain information from Mr Ravi and/or his attending psychiatrist in connection with Mr Ravi's mental state as well as fitness to practise as an advocate and solicitor;
2. that Mr Ravi undergo all medical tests and/or evaluations required by his attending psychiatrist;
3. that Mr Ravi adhere to the advice of his attending psychiatrist if the attending psychiatrist has given him medical leave and has advised him not to practise during the period of the medical leave.
These conditions were intended to assist Mr Ravi by enabling him to continue practising as an advocate and solicitor notwithstanding Mr Ravi's medical condition. At the same time, the conditions were intended to safeguard the interests of the public by ensuring that Mr Ravi's ability and fitness to practice as an advocate and solicitor are not compromised by his medical condition.
The Council was informed in the course of last week that Mr Ravi's attending psychiatrist had examined him and:
1. diagnosed Mr Ravi as being hypomanic;
2. certified Mr Ravi as being medically unfit for duty from 3 to 6 February 2015 (both dates inclusive), with such medical leave being valid for absence from court or other judicial proceedings;
3. advised Mr Ravi not to practise as an advocate and solicitor during the period 3 to 6 February 2015;
4. advised Mr Ravi to undergo hospitalisation for observation purposes;
5. opined that Mr Ravi's medical condition appeared to be worsening as Mr Ravi appeared to be hypomanic despite being on mood stabilisers/medication; and
6. stated that Mr Ravi's hypomania created risk of errors of judgment, erratic and abnormal behaviour and emotional outbursts..
Regrettably, however, Mr Ravi did not comply with the advice of his attending psychiatrist, as he refused admission to hospital, was uncontactable by his attending psychiatrist, appeared in the State Courts and/or High Court while on medical leave, and continued to practise as an advocate and solicitor during the period 3 to 6 February 2015. The Council consequently developed serious concerns as regards Mr Ravi's mental condition and fitness to practise.
The Council has a statutory duty to ensure that all persons registered with the Law Society as practising lawyers are not impaired by any physical or mental condition which may affect their fitness to practise as advocates and solicitors. This is a duty which the Law Society owes to the profession and to the public as a whole.
At the same time, the Council has a duty to assist its members where and to the extent possible.
Consequently, in the interests of Mr Ravi, the profession and the public, on 10 February 2015 the Council issued its Direction to Mr Ravi to cease practising with immediate effect until he submitted to a medical examination by his attending psychiatrist or a certified consultant psychiatrist.
In making its decision to issue the Direction, the Council considered a range of legal options, and, while it could have pursued more drastic measures at this juncture, determined that the Direction best balances the interests of Mr Ravi himself, his clients and the integrity of the legal profession. In particular, the Council took into account the consideration that, subject to Mr Ravi satisfactorily addressing the relevant matters, Mr Ravi could be allowed to continue practising as an advocate and solicitor.