Little India Riot: Law Society refutes "nefarious plot" suggestion

The Law Society has refuted suggestions of a "nefarious plot" to prevent certain activist lawyers from representing suspects involved in Sunday night's riot in Little India. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN
The Law Society has refuted suggestions of a "nefarious plot" to prevent certain activist lawyers from representing suspects involved in Sunday night's riot in Little India. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

The Law Society has refuted suggestions of a "nefarious plot" to prevent certain activist lawyers from representing suspects involved in Sunday night's riot in Little India.

The insinuation was levelled by social activist Vincent Wijeysingha against lawyer Amarick Gill, who had on behalf of the Law Society attended Tuesday's hearing where 24 Indian nationals were charged.

The Law Society said in a statement on Wednesday that under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS), a list of volunteer lawyers who provide pro bono services has been collated, including Mr M. Ravi.

"There is no basis to insinuate any "nefarious plot" to exclude any particular lawyer and so, the CLAS's representative rejected this unfair and spurious allegation," the Law Society said in the statement. "As always, these accused persons are entitled to engage counsel of their own choice."

Mr Gill had told the court on Tuesday that the scheme was available to the suspects, adding that the CLAS office was working with the Indian High Commission "on securing a number of lawyers to provide legal representation to all accused persons".

Three more suspects were charged in court on Wednesday, to whom the scheme will also be extended.

After the court proceedings on Tuesday, Mr Wijeysingha had asked the CLAS lawyer whether there was a "nefarious plot" by the Law Society to prevent activist lawyers like Mr M. Ravi from representing the alleged rioters.

Brushing him off by saying it was an unfair question, Mr Gill had said: "We don't know... anything is possible."

The CLAS considers applications only after an accused person is charged with a non-capital offence. Upon receiving any applications, the CLAS will determine if the offence is contained in the prescribed list of statutes, and then assess the application based on established criteria to determine if legal aid should be granted.

The assessment includes the means of the applicant and the merits of the application, and the same criteria are consistently applied across all applications.