Najib, Shafee lose High Court bid to disqualify Gopal Sri Ram as lead prosecutor

Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram is pictured at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram is pictured at the Palace of Justice, Putrajaya February 14, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — The application for leave for a judicial review by Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah on the appointment of Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram from leading the prosecution team in their cases, has been dismissed by the High Court today.

In her ruling, High Court Judge Datuk Azizah Nawawi cited grounds of convenience, saying any issue with regards to the appointment of the former Federal Court judge as the Deputy Public Prosecutor can be addressed in the Criminal High Court.

Najib and Muhammad Shafee had in December separately filed the judicial review applications in the High Court and Criminal High Court, naming the Attorney General/Public Prosecutor, the Government of Malaysia and Sri Ram as the first, second, and third respondents respectively.

Both applications had sought for an order to disqualify the decision by the first respondent who did not submit to them a copy of Sri Ram’s appointment letter to lead the prosecution team, citing it as a violation under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

A copy of Judge Azizah’s judgement read that she was of the opinion the applicants were seeking for the same outcome in the Criminal Courts.

“This is not an issue of jurisdiction, as both this court and the Criminal Court have jurisdictions on the subject matter.

“This court may issue an order of Certiorari whilst the Criminal Court may grant the order to the AG (Attorney General) to furnish the impugn letter of appointment to the applicants,” it read.

Her decision was read out in Chambers in the presence of Shafee and his lawyers Harvinderjit Singh Muhammad Farhan Muhammad Shafee, and Senior Federal Council Shamsul Bolhassan acting for the AG’s Chambers.

In her decision, Judge Azizah also noted despite her dismissal, she felt the applicants had an arguable case that merits the issue of Sri Ram’s appointment to proceed for a hearing, chiding the AG and his court submitted response over the matter.

“The AG has refused to give the letter of appointment of Sri Ram under section 376(3) of the CPC on the basis that ‘the applicants has no right to a copy’.

“Such a simplistic reason is baffling, coming from the AG. Surely there must be a legal and/or a constitutional reason for the rejection,” it read.

She had also pointed out the issue of conflict of interest considering Sri Ram is still a practising lawyer, and the Senior Federal Council’s notice of a similar notice of motions filed by the applicants in the criminal courts.

“On the issue of multiplicity, I take note of the applicant’s submission, inter alia; that it is out of abundance of caution that the criminal motions were filed in court.

“That these applications and the criminal motions were filed simultaneously so as to avoid any jurisdictional challenge being raised and determined against the applicant, which would result in the applicant being out of time to file the present applications for leave.

“That if the need arises, the applicant intends to apply for a stay of proceedings in either these proceedings or in the Notice of Motion as soon as the issue of jurisdiction of either these proceedings or in the Notice of Motion is conceded to and/or determined,” the judgement said.