M. Ravi's case referred to Apex court

Mr M. Ravi, 45, is being probed as a non-practising lawyer as he was suspended in February this year.
Mr M. Ravi, 45, is being probed as a non-practising lawyer as he was suspended in February this year.

Tribunal has no power to fine, censure as he is dealt with as non-practising lawyer

Suspended human rights lawyer M. Ravi will be dealt with by a Court of Three Judges after admitting to four misconduct charges before a disciplinary tribunal.

The tribunal recommended the move, pointing out that it had no power to fine or censure Mr Ravi as he was being dealt with as a non-practising lawyer.

Under the relevant laws, the tribunal has different powers when dealing with practising and non-practising lawyers found guilty of professional misconduct.

For practising lawyers, the tribunal can impose a fine or issue a reprimand if it finds the misconduct involved was not sufficiently serious to be referred to the Court of Three Judges, which has additional powers of suspending or striking out the lawyer from practice.

Mr Ravi, 45, is being probed as a non-practising lawyer as he was suspended in February because his fitness to practise was impaired by his mental condition, diagnosed as a bipolar disorder. His certificate has not been renewed since then.

The tribunal, comprising Senior Counsel Molly Lim and lawyer Steven Seah, was appointed by the Chief Justice. It said that in the case of a non-practising lawyer, its task is limited to finding if the charges are sufficiently serious to have it referred to the Court of Three Judges.

The tribunal, in its report released yesterday, said a prima facie case had been established against Mr Ravi since he had "pleaded guilty to the four charges and his mental condition as per the evidence of Dr (Tommy) Tan (a psychiatrist) does not exculpate him for his various acts of misconduct but are mitigating factors only".

The four charges against Mr Ravi include creating a ruckus at the Law Society premises, a video clip of which was posted online.

Another charge involved making inappropriate statements against the Law Society president and his family members in a Facebook post. Two other charges involve false allegations made by Mr Ravi about two lawyers in February.

Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam argued that the case did not justify being referred to the Court of Three Judges as the offences were due to Mr Ravi's mental condition.

Psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow testified that Mr Ravi suffered from bipolar disorder and a hypomanic episode from mid-January to late February.

Dr Tommy Tan, a psychiatrist called by the Law Society, said Mr Ravi's mental condition did not serve to excuse but to mitigate the acts complained of against him.

Mr Thuraisingam added that Mr Ravi had shown remorse, apologised in April to the people affected and was prepared to pay $10,000 as a penalty to the Society or one of its pro bono schemes. He was also taking steps to prevent a relapse.

But lawyers Sean La'Brooy and Ms Venetia Tan for the Law Society countered that the case was sufficiently serious to be referred to the Court of Three Judges, pointing to the scurrilous statements he had made.

The tribunal held that it had no power to order any sanction or to accept Mr Ravi's offer to pay $10,000, and that its role was to report to the Chief Justice if the case was serious enough for disciplinary action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'M. Ravi's case referred to Apex court'. Print Edition | Subscribe