Appellate court upholds Karpal sedition conviction, but cuts fine to RM1,800

(From left) Karpal's children Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, Mankarpal Singh, Sangeet Kaur, Karpal's wife Gurmit Kaur and Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh are pictured at the Court of Appeal earlier today. — Picture by Mayuri Mei Lin
(From left) Karpal's children Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, Mankarpal Singh, Sangeet Kaur, Karpal's wife Gurmit Kaur and Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh are pictured at the Court of Appeal earlier today. — Picture by Mayuri Mei Lin

PUTRAJAYA, May 30 — The Court of Appeal upheld today the 2014 sedition conviction of the late Karpal Singh, former DAP national chairman, who had questioned the Sultan of Perak’s removal of the state mentri besar in 2009.

The three-judge panel’s decision was not unanimous, with Datuk Wira Mohtaruddin Baki and Kamardin Hashim ruling to uphold the conviction while Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat held a dissenting view.

"It is my humble opinion that the conviction is safe.

"It’s a serious offence involving the sovereignty of a ruler," Mohtaruddin said.

The High Court had found Karpal, a former lawyer and legislator, guilty of sedition in February 2014 for questioning the power of the then Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah’s removal of then mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin from office, resulting in what came to be known as the Perak constitutional crisis of 2009.

The panel also reduced Karpal’s RM4,000 fine to RM1,800, effectively reversing his disqualification as an MP and allowing his widow to collect his pension.

This in line with Article 48 of the Federal Constitution that states an MP is disqualified if sentenced “to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than RM2,000.”

Mohtarudin explained that Karpal had a seditious tendency when he said the late Perak sultan was “not immune from being taken to court” and that he could “sue to Sultan together with the new state government” if they were to persist.

“Question arises as to where to draw the line in making a statement that is deemed to show that the Ruler has been misled or mistaken in exercising his prerogative power within the limit as provided by the Act without any seditious tendency.

“It is apparent that the appellant clearly had mens rea in making such statements which has seditious tendency...” the lead judge said, using the Latin term for criminal intention or knowledge.

The judge said he took into account Karpal’s position as MP and that the latter was only providing his legal opinion on the issue, but added the lawmaker’s legal background meant he should have been able to frame his remarks without committing sedition.

Karpal also made his assertion repeatedly, which the judge said crossed the line from issuing legally acceptable remarks and into the territory of sedition.

Karpal’s lead counsel and son, Gobind Singh Deo, explained that the dissenting judge said, however, the High Court had prematurely taken into consideration a previous Court of Appeal decision that occurred before Karpal had even entered his defense.

“Tengku Maimun agreed that there was serious misdirection, that was sufficient to warrant the conviction being set aside,” Gobind said.

The Puchong MP added that it was “very possible” that they will appeal to the Federal Court.

Karpal, who was the Bukit Gelugor MP then, was also represented by son Ramkarpal Singh, the current Bukit Gelugor MP, and daughter Sangeet Kaur.

Also present today was Karpal’s wife, Gurmit Singh; his eldest son Penang assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo; his youngest son, Mankarpal Singh; as well as DAP lawmakers Lim Kit Siang, Lim Lip Eng and Teresa Kok.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court convicted Karpal of sedition and sentenced him to a RM4,000 fine in February 2014.

Karpal died two months later on April 17, 2014 in a car accident on the North-South expressway near Gua Tempurung.

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