High Court puts off decision to recuse Sri Ram as prosecutor

Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is seen at the KL High Court in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is seen at the KL High Court in Kuala Lumpur April 3, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The High Court today said its decision to recuse Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s case will come after the Federal Court wraps up a similar appeal in a separate case involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said he would have to await the decision from the higher court before delivering his judgment.

“Let us wait for what comes out of the Federal Court, hence I will fix these proceedings for further submissions, that is pending the further decision of the Federal Court,” he said, before setting Friday as the next court date.

Shafee, who is acting as Najib’s lawyer in the other case, had claimed trial to two counts of money laundering amounting to RM9.5 million allegedly received by the sixth prime minister and two counts under the Income Tax Act last September.

Last month, Sequerah had set the hearing for Shafee’s challenge on Sri Ram’s appointment to be heard after the conclusion from Najib’s similar appeals in the Court of Appeal (CoA).

Shafee had previously applied for the removal of Sri Ram as lead prosecutor, on grounds the latter was not an independent and had a hidden agenda and a strained relationship with the accused.

The senior lawyer had also argued the grounds of Sri Ram having represented Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at the Court of Appeal in a civil case.

Shafee’s application is also seeking for the Attorney General’s Chambers to produce Sri Ram’s letter of appointment, to which the attorney general himself had argued the document is classified under the Officials Secrets Act (OSA).

In court today, Shafee’s lead counsel Harvinderjit Singh said he had sighted the appointment letter but was not furnished with a copy of his own.

Harvinderjit said the document did not obtain any information of great importance or which threatened national security deserving to be put under the OSA.

“Merely the marking is not enough to bound production of the document.

“It must have evidence it comes within the official secrets,” argued Harvinderjit over the immunity given to the document.

But deputy public prosecutor Kamal Bahrin Omar countered, saying the court of law was a professional setting and not one that involved personal relationships.

“Personal issues and animosity should not be used as a reason to disqualify Sri Ram,” he argued.

On March 21, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal allowed Najib’s appeal to have the prosecution produce the appointment letter of ad hoc prosecutor Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah.

The appellate court however judged against Najib in three of his four appeals regarding his request for additional documents, a gag order to prevent the media and public from discussing the merits of his case, and on the Attorney-General’s move to withdraw his certificate to transfer seven charges from the Sessions Court to the High Court.

However, the three-man bench allowed Najib’s appeal to have the prosecution produce the appointment letter for Sulaiman.