SBS Transit trial: Judge confirms with ex-bus driver that he does not want her recused as M Ravi said
SINGAPORE: The trial of a former bus driver against transport operator SBS Transit is set to continue at a later date, after the judge confirmed with the main plaintiff on Monday (Nov 29) that he does not want the judge to recuse herself as requested by his former lawyer M Ravi.
On the first day of the trial last week, Mr Ravi had alleged that the judge was "biased" and called SBS Transit's lawyer Davinder Singh a "clown".
Mr Ravi was later discharged from the lawsuit, with his client Chua Qwong Meng saying he was "embarrassed" by the lawyer's behaviour.
Mr Chua turned up in court with his newly appointed lawyer Lim Tean on Monday morning. Twelve other bus drivers are tagged to the case against SBS Transit.
Mr Lim, who is purportedly taking on the case at no cost, addressed Justice Audrey Lim, saying: "In the past week, since the dramatic events of Monday (Nov 22), a lot has happened. I was contacted around Wednesday and I agreed to represent Mr Chua."
He said he gathered that the judge wanted to hear personally from Mr Chua about his intentions regarding the proceedings.
Justice Lim explained that she had asked Mr Chua to turn up because there was no clarity before Friday as to who was taking over his case.
"I think Mr Chua wrote to the court Tuesday, to inform the court that he has discharged K K Cheng and Mr Ravi and to ask the court to give him some time to find a new lawyer," said the judge.
"The court was not clear exactly what was happening. I wanted to make sure we can all get clarity and we can move on with the trial."
Turning to Mr Chua, Justice Lim said she wanted to confirm if he still intends to take up an application to recuse her from the case, as Mr Ravi had said last Monday.
Mr Lim said: "I want to state very clearly for the record that it was never Mr Chua's intention to apply for your honour to recuse yourself, and he has no such intention."
"What happened last Monday struck Mr Chua like a thunderbolt," continued the lawyer.
"He was bewildered by what happened in that room. He thought he had fallen out of the wrong side of the bed that morning. And that's why, after the fracas, he immediately discharged his former counsel, and he wrote in to court - which I believe you have that letter - saying that there was no way he was going ahead with that application."
The judge raised another point of clarification: "The other thing I just want Mr Chua to confirm is - Mr Ravi stated last Monday that he wanted to discharge Mr Chua. I'm not sure what that application meant. I just want to make sure there's no such application."
Mr Lim stressed that his client intends to carry on with his litigation. He reiterated that what Mr Ravi stated at the previous hearing was "done totally without his instructions".
Mr Singh confirmed that he had no issues as well with the judge handling the trial, and said he had not filed certain notices due to the "events of Monday and the uncertainty that followed".
The judge sent the matter back for a pre-trial conference in December. The trial will resume at a later date.
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 started 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.
Since last Monday's events, the Law Society, which regulates lawyers in Singapore, has said that it is closely monitoring Mr Ravi's matters and will take "appropriate action".