AGC's demand for apology over statements in drug runner case 'plainly without basis', says lawyer M. Ravi

Mr M. Ravi disagreed that he had breached any rules or that his conduct was improper. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Lawyer M. Ravi on Wednesday (Oct 21) said the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC) demand for an apology was "plainly without basis", and sought an apology from the public prosecutor to his client Gobi Avedian instead.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, Mr Ravi said he did not deny making the statements specified in the AGC's letter to him on Tuesday.

But he denied the statements amounted to allegations that the public prosecutor had acted in bad faith or maliciously in the prosecution of Gobi, and that he had made the statements while knowing or having reason to believe that they were false.

He also disagreed that he had breached any rules by making his statements or that his conduct was improper.

"We say so as there are sufficient bases for the statements to be made, both objective and subjective," Mr Ravi said in his letter.

On Monday, he had told alternative news website The Online Citizen (TOC) that the prosecutor had been "overzealous" in prosecuting Gobi, which had "led to the death sentence" for his client.

This came after the five-judge Court of Appeal reversed a 2018 decision to convict Gobi on a capital charge for drug trafficking.

Mr Ravi had also said "it was troubling" that the prosecution ran different cases before the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

He called on the public prosecutor and others to apologise to Gobi for the suffering he experienced and said the apex court's judgment calls into question "the fairness of the administration of justice in Gobi's case by the prosecution".

On Tuesday, the AGC issued a letter to Mr Ravi demanding he apologise for his comments and retract them unconditionally.

The AGC had noted, among other things, that the Court of Appeal made no adverse findings against the public prosecutor or the prosecution of Gobi.

"In fact, the Court of Appeal pointed out in the judgment that the initial decision to convict the applicant was 'correct at the time (it was) made' and that none of the arguments considered in the judgment 'could have been made in view of the legal position as it was understood then'," the AGC said.

But Mr Ravi countered on Wednesday that the AGC had quoted the apex court's judgment out of context.

The judgment had said: "It is a reflection of the robustness of our legal framework that the court may in limited circumstances take into account subsequent changes in the legal position to reassess previously made decisions, even if they were correct at the time they were made. That is precisely what has happened in this exceptional case."

Mr Ravi argued that the phrase "even if" in the judgment should be understood to mean "whether or not".

He said: "When read in this light, it is abundantly clear that the Court of Appeal did not say that its decision in (the case) was correctly decided at the material time.

"Indeed, and with the utmost respect, it would have been inappropriate for the Court of Appeal to be justifying its earlier decision ex post facto in (the review of the case), as that would have the effect of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice."

Mr Ravi also reiterated his earlier point that the prosecution had run different cases during the appeal and the subsequent review of Gobi's case, which meant that Gobi did not have a fair chance of knowing what case was being advanced against him and what evidence he needed to give to meet the case.

Mr Ravi also noted the AGC had accused him of abusing court processes in filing the review of the case which led to the retraction of the death penalty against his client, adding that this "landmark decision" would have a profound impact on other pending and future drug cases.

He said the AGC has a crucial role to play in the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice and should have been the party filing the review after an earlier case involving Nigerian Adili Chibuike Ejike, who had similarly escaped the gallows after he was cleared of drug importation charges last year.

The fact that it did not do so and went on to accuse him of abusing the court's process when he filed the review lends support to his argument that the prosecution had been "overzealous" in defending Gobi's conviction on the capital charge, Mr Ravi added.

He further said he would start proceedings against Attorney-General Lucien Wong, Mr Hri Kumar and other members of the prosecution, regardless of whether they apologised to Gobi or not.

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