High Court upholds dismissal of misconduct charge against lawyer M. Ravi

The misconduct charge was one of four brought against Mr M. Ravi. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Lawyer M. Ravi's comments about the prosecution's conduct - made immediately after the Court of Appeal reversed his client's death sentence in 2020 - constituted fair criticism, said the High Court.

Justice See Kee Oon said this in written grounds issued on Thursday (July 28) giving reasons for why he upheld the decision of a disciplinary tribunal to dismiss a misconduct charge against Mr Ravi.

The judge had, in May, dismissed an application by the Attorney-General challenging the tribunal's decision.

The misconduct charge was one of four brought against Mr Ravi after the Attorney-General filed a complaint with the Law Society of Singapore.

Mr Ravi was found guilty of the other three charges, for making baseless accusations and threatening to take legal action against fellow lawyers and the Law Society in his Facebook posts.

He was ordered by the tribunal to pay a penalty of $6,000 and costs of $3,000.

Mr Ravi stopped practising law in December last year after receiving a medical certificate from his attending psychiatrist.

The complaint stemmed from the case involving Malaysian Gobi Avedian, who was caught with two packets of granular substance found to contain 40.22g of heroin in 2014.

Gobi first escaped the death penalty in 2017 after the High Court convicted him of a lesser drug charge and sentenced him to 15 years' jail and 10 strokes of the cane.

In 2018, the apex court allowed an appeal by the prosecution and convicted Gobi of the original capital charge.

In February 2020, Gobi filed an application for the apex court to review its decision, in the light of its ruling in a separate case in 2019.

After reviewing Gobi's case, the apex court set aside the conviction on the capital charge and reinstated his initial conviction and sentence.

Shortly after the apex court's decision on Oct 19, 2020, Mr Ravi gave an interview to socio-political website The Online Citizen where he commented on the judgment and made several allegations against the prosecution.

He said the prosecution had been "overzealous" in prosecuting his client.

He also said it was "troubling" that the court noted that prosecutors ran a different case in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, which called into question whether the prosecution had acted fairly.

The next day, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) wrote to Mr Ravi that his statements alleged that the Attorney-General acted in bad faith or maliciously, and sought an apology and a retraction.

Mr Ravi uploaded the letter on Facebook and wrote back to deny the AGC's allegations.

On Thursday, in his written grounds, Justice See said the use of the word "overzealous" had not crossed the line to imply that the prosecution had sought, at all costs or through any means, to ensure that Gobi did not escape the death penalty.

The judge said he was unable to see any issue with the use of the word "troubling", as there was some factual basis for this sentiment.

The apex court had expressed concern that the prosecution advanced a different case against Gobi at trial as compared to what was put forward on appeal, said Justice See.

"Given the Court of Appeal's unequivocal observations... on how the change in the prosecution's case on appeal was 'ultimately prejudicial' to Gobi, I accepted that (Mr Ravi) had a rational basis for making the interview statements and his statements thus constituted fair criticism," he said.

Justice See did not order costs against the Attorney-General, noting that the decision to challenge the tribunal's decision was made honestly and reasonably.

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