Channel NewsAsia

Little India riot: Lawyer’s case to quash charges ‘lacked merit’

The High Court has issued a written judgment on why lawyer M Ravi should bear the prosecution’s costs in an application he had made to quash charges against five men involved in the Little India riot last year.

SINGAPORE: The High Court on Wednesday (June 25) issued a written judgment on why lawyer M Ravi should bear the prosecution’s costs in an application he had made to quash charges against five men involved in the Little India riot last year.

Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye had harsh words for Mr Ravi, noting that the application alleging sub judice – which Mr Ravi later withdrew – had no merit. Its withdrawal, he wrote, did not prevent the finding that the conduct of the matter was “extravagant and unnecessary”. He also said that by filing an unmeritorious motion, Mr Ravi showed “scant regard for his clients’ best interests” and failed to meet the standards of competence that should guide a solicitor’s conduct.

On April 2, Mr Ravi filed a criminal motion asking for the charges against the five men – whom he no longer represents – to be quashed, arguing that the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot had breached the sub judice rule as it prejudiced the men before a fair trial and was in contempt of court.

Mr Ravi later withdrew his application after the prosecution filed an application to have his motion struck out, but the prosecution, in an unprecedented move, wanted him to pay their costs – which amounted to S$1,000 – arguing that he had been negligent and unreasonable in his conduct and had caused unnecessary costs to be incurred.

In his written grounds, the judicial commissioner noted that the filing of a criminal motion was a serious matter and that one cannot file “without serious consideration of the merits of his case and whether the filing of such a criminal motion is worthwhile”. Even when a motion had been withdrawn, costs might have been incurred by other parties. “It cannot be the case that an accused person can file all sorts of frivolous or vexatious criminal motions while avoiding adverse cost orders so long as he made sure to withdraw the applications,” he said.

The judicial commissioner also questioned Mr Ravi’s request to represent the five accused men in the COI hearings, noting that if he had been allowed to do so, it would probably have prejudiced the criminal proceedings as the accused persons’ testimonies would have been examined during the hearing. They would then have breached the sub judice rule, which they had alleged the COI hearing of violating in the first place.

Moreover, not only had Mr Ravi exposed the accused men to the risk of prejudice, he also did not appear to prioritise their interests. The affidavit filed for the application was signed and affirmed by only three of the five men, who were on bail. The other two, who were in remand, did not do so. “This raises the question of whether these two accused persons were even consulted in the first place,” Judicial Commissioner Tan said.

“Furthermore, this is not a matter of Mr Ravi inheriting a bad case from the accused persons, which resulted in a poorly drafted affidavit. Rather, it is Mr Ravi who initiated an unmeritorious motion on behalf of the accused persons on his own accord,” he said. “In this case, Mr Ravi’s behaviour was a complete abuse of the legal process which evidenced scant regard for his clients’ best interests.”

Judicial Commissioner Tan added that the fact that Mr Ravi was not charging the men was not a justification for filing an “extravagant and unnecessary” motion.

When contacted on Wednesday, Mr Ravi said he was considering whether to appeal.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna