M. Ravi faces $10k penalty for attacks on prosecutors, judge

A disciplinary tribunal (DT) has determined that activist lawyer M. Ravi should be ordered to pay a penalty of at least $10,000 for unsupported attacks against state prosecutors and a senior district judge.

The attacks were contained in a media statement published by Mr Ravi, 51, and posted online in July last year.

The DT, appointed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon last November and comprising Senior Counsel Lee Kim Shin and senior lawyer Harish Kumar, found that Mr Ravi "intended to cast aspersions of bias against state prosecutors, and against Mr (Bala) Reddy as a judge in the State Courts".

In decision grounds issued last month, the tribunal said that Mr Ravi should pay "a penalty that is sufficient and appropriate to the misconduct committed".

It added that the sum "should not be less than $10,000".

Mr Ravi was also ordered to pay $3,000 in costs to the Law Society which prosecuted the case.

The Law Society, acting on a complaint by the Attorney-General in August last year, laid out three charges against Mr Ravi under different sections of the Legal Profession Act read with the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules.

Mr Ravi's attacks were contained in the media statement he issued at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on July 23 last year, together with a Malaysian civil society group.

It was also posted on the same day online as part of an article titled "Miscarriage of Justice - the urgency of sparing the life of Malaysian Nagenthran on Death Row in Singapore".

The first charge referred to three statements that attacked the impartiality and integrity of state prosecutors in Singapore. The second charge referred to a similar number of statements that contained unsupported attacks against Senior District Judge Reddy, a sitting judge of the State Courts, alleging he was biased against defence psychiatrists.

The tribunal found the third charge against Mr Ravi, which involved allegations levelled against the judiciary, was not made out.

On Aug 20 last year, his then lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, informed the Law Society that Mr Ravi had withdrawn the allegations and apologised unconditionally, enclosing a screenshot of the apology on Mr Ravi's Facebook post.

But Mr Ravi contested the charges at the DT hearing in March despite having earlier apologised and withdrawn the media statement.

The tribunal, after considering the evidence, found him guilty of two alternate charges of misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor as an officer of the Supreme Court or as a member of an honourable profession within the meaning of Section 83(2)(h) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161).

The tribunal said: "For the alternate charges, we do not need to make a definitive finding as to whether (Mr Ravi) was acting in a professional or personal capacity since S 83(2)(h) of the LPA encompasses conduct in both capacities.

"It is well established that 'conduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor' is not confined to misconduct in the legal practitioner's professional capacity but also extends to misconduct in the practitioner's personal capacity. In other words, S 83(2)(h) encompasses, rather than excludes, misconduct in the legal practitioner's professional capacity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2020, with the headline 'M. Ravi faces $10k penalty for attacks on prosecutors, judge'. Print Edition | Subscribe