Drug trafficker who escaped gallows trying to delay caning until he turns 50: Judge

Mohammad Farid Batra was given the death penalty in 2016 but was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane in 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 49-year-old man who escaped the gallows for heroin trafficking in 2020 filed a court application this year, arguing that it was unfair that the other man involved in the drug deal was not charged over a package of methamphetamine.

Mohammad Farid Batra's application was dismissed on Thursday (June 2) by a High Court judge, who said it smacked of an attempt to game the judicial system by delaying the carrying out of his caning sentence until after his 50th birthday.

"Given the absence of any semblance of a shadow of a phantom of a minuscule, ephemeral mote of any merit in the present application, the applicant could not have had any expectation or genuine belief in the possibility of a successful claim," said Justice Aedit Abdullah.

Farid was given the death penalty in 2016, but was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane in 2020 by the Court of Appeal.

The current application is the third he has filed to the courts since then.

Justice Abdullah said in his judgment that if Farid was represented by counsel, the lawyer could expect severe consequences for abusing the court's processes.

But Farid probably expects little downside from mounting such an application that was "audaciously and brazenly devoid of any merit or hope", he said.

"I would have to leave it to the executive and legislature to consider whether and what action can be taken in future instances of abusive applications by litigants and those advising, assisting or egging them on," said Justice Abdullah.

Farid, a Singaporean, and Ranjit Singh Gill Manjeet Singh, a 48-year-old Malaysian, were convicted of trafficking in not less than 35.21g of heroin in 2016 after a joint High Court trial.

On the night of Feb 6, 2014, in Choa Chu Kang Way, Ranjit placed a plastic bag on the front passenger seat of Farid's car, while Farid passed Ranjit a package containing methamphetamine.

They were arrested separately by Central Narcotics Bureau officers.

The plastic bag contained about 1.36kg of a powdery substance which was found to contain not less than 35.21g of heroin.

Ranjit was given a life term and 15 strokes of the cane as he was found to be a mere courier and was certified by the prosecution to have substantively assisted in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

In 2020, the Court of Appeal accepted that Farid was also a courier and resentenced him after the prosecution issued him a certificate of substantive assistance.

In April 2021, he asked the apex court to quash his conviction for trafficking. This was refused.

In January this year, he applied for Mohamed Hafiz Mohd Arifin, to whom Ranjit had passed the methamphetamine, to be brought to court.

This was dismissed and found by the court to be an abuse of process.

In the current application, Farid sought judicial review of the Attorney-General's decision not to charge Ranjit over the methamphetamine.

Farid had faced a non-capital charge for the methamphetamine, but this was ultimately withdrawn.

The Attorney-General's Chambers argued that the charge faced by Farid in respect of the methamphetamine played no role in his sentencing and was thus irrelevant.

Justice Abdullah said that whether Ranjit faced a non-capital methamphetamine charge does not affect Farid in any meaningful way.

The fact that the charge against Farid was withdrawn meant that he was not actually exposed to different treatment, said the judge.

He ordered that any appeal that Farid files against his decision is to be expedited.

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