SINGAPORE: Lawyer M Ravi has said he intends to discharge himself from a former bus driver’s lawsuit against transport operator SBS Transit, claiming a “breach” of his client’s right to a fair trial.
Mr Ravi said on Monday (Nov 22) - the first day of the trial, which was conducted via video conferencing - that he and his client, former bus driver Mr Chua Qwong Meng, would both be “discharging” themselves from the case.
Mr Chua, who worked for SBS Transit from April 2017 to early 2020, claims that SBS Transit breached the Employment Act by not giving him a rest day each week and that he was also underpaid for overtime work.
He commenced his suit against SBS Transit in September 2019. Although the case was mounted by Mr Chua, another 12 drivers are linked to it, with Mr Chua claiming that about S$720,000 is involved in the allegations of all 13 suits.
In March last year, it was agreed that Mr Chua's case would be heard as a test case, with the other 12 suits held in abeyance pending the determination of his case.
In June this year, Justice Audrey Lim granted Mr Chua's request to have his case heard in the High Court, stating that it affected not only Mr Chua but a larger class of employees including those in the public transport sector.
Mr Ravi said on Monday that he intends to file a case before the International Court of Justice, and plans to approach the Malaysian government for assistance as most of the bus drivers involved are Malaysian.
He added that the drivers had contacted a “Mahathir”, although it was unclear whether this was in reference to former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The “breach” alleged by Mr Ravi referred to the appearance of Mr Timothy Lin, a lawyer from Davinder Singh Chambers, at Mr Ravi’s office on Monday morning.
As the trial was being conducted via video-conferencing, the plaintiff was set to address the court from Mr Ravi’s office.
Mr Singh said he had written to Mr Ravi on Nov 18 to say he would be sending a representative to sit in while Mr Chua gave evidence, and that Mr Ravi did not disagree to this.
He told the court that Mr Lin had been asked to leave Mr Ravi’s office on Monday and that a police report was being made against him.
Mr Ravi told the court that Mr Lin’s presence in the office would give him access to “privileged communications”.
Justice Lim, however, noted such a practice had been done before, and was meant to ensure that evidence was given without coaching or other influence.
She suggested that Mr Lin could be seated in the same room as Mr Chua, but in a position where he would not be able to view any documents.
Alternatively, she said, additional cameras could be set up in the room to show that the plaintiff was not being coached in his responses.
Mr Ravi responded by asking the judge to recuse herself, claiming she was “biased” for allowing Mr Singh’s lawyer to come to his office.
He said that the case had been “irreversibly tainted” and that his client no longer had any faith in the system.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Ravi had also referred to Mr Singh as a “clown” while discussing issues related to another witness.
The court will hear Mr Ravi's formal application to discharge himself next Monday (Nov 29).