Lawyer to pay $1,000 for frivolous appeals in court

Lawyer S.K. Kumar had asked the court for lighter sentences for his clients, but later appealed against the same sentences he had successfully asked for.
Lawyer S.K. Kumar had asked the court for lighter sentences for his clients, but later appealed against the same sentences he had successfully asked for.

A lawyer successfully urged a court to impose a three-week jail term on each of his four clients - then later appealed against the same sentences he had asked for.

For filing the frivolous appeals, Mr S.K. Kumar has found himself $1,000 poorer, after the prosecution invoked a provision to seek costs against him personally for abusing the court process.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bhajanvir Singh told the High Court yesterday that Mr Kumar offered to pay $1,000 after the prosecution told him it was seeking the personal cost order against him.

The money will be donated to the Law Society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

DPP Singh told the court that the prosecution will not hesitate to seek costs personally from counsel who file frivolous appeals as they disrupt the administration of criminal justice.

Mr Kumar was not in court yesterday but instructed another lawyer to formally withdraw the four appeals.

Unlike civil suits, in which the losing party usually pays costs to the winning side, costs are seldom awarded in criminal proceedings.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the court can order costs against defence counsel who incur unreasonable costs by failing to act with "reasonable competence and expedition".

Mr Kumar represented four Bangladeshi construction workers, aged between 22 and 27, who assaulted a 25-year-old compatriot in April 2014, following a worksite dispute.

The four initially claimed trial but eventually pleaded guilty to causing hurt last September.

The prosecution sought four weeks' jail for each of them but the district judge came down on the side of Mr Kumar, who asked for three weeks.

He then filed an appeal to the High Court, contending that three weeks' jail is manifestly excessive.

Mr Kumar could not be reached for comment. He is the second lawyer here to personally bear the prosecution's costs.

The first, Mr M. Ravi, was ordered by the High Court to pay $1,000 in 2014 over an application he had made to quash charges against five men implicated in the 2013 Little India riot.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Lawyer to pay $1,000 for frivolous appeals in court'. Print Edition | Subscribe