Legality of Gopal Sri Ram’s appointment as 1MDB prosecutor to be heard in High Court

Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur August 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur August 28, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 15 — The applications by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to challenge the legality of the appointment of former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as a senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) will be heard at the High Court.

This was after the Federal Court today dismissed the application for leave to appeal filed by Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) against the Court of Appeal decision which granted Najib and Muhammad Shafee leave for a judicial review to challenge Sri Ram’s appointment.

In unanimous decision, a three-member bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat upheld the decision by the Court of Appeal on Aug 26, 2019.

Justice Tengku Maimun said from submissions by both parties, the panel satisfied that the application for leave for judicial review and a criminal motion (over the appointment of Sri Ram) were distinct and separate.  

“Therefore, the issue of res judicata (a matter that has been decided) and abuse of court process does not arise,” said Justice Tengku Maimun who presided over the case with Federal Court judges Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Tan Sri Idrus Harun.

Justice Tengku Maimun said the panel agreed with the Court of Appeal’s decision and therefore dismissed the leave to appeal with no order as to costs.

The panel made decision after hearing submissions from Senior Federal Counsel Alice Loke who was representing the AGC as the applicant, while Muhammad Shafee acted for Najib and Harvinderjit Singh appeared for Muhammad Shafee who were the respondents.

The case is scheduled to be heard on the substantive merits on Oct 25 before Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya.

On Feb 20 this year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Najib and Muhammad Shafee's applications for leave to commence a judicial review, prompting them to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The then High Court judge, Datuk Azizah Nawawi (now Court of Appeal judge), in her judgment, said it is more convenient for the issue on Sri Ram's appointment to be addressed in the criminal High Court as similar applications are pending in that court and the prayer sought in the leave application by Najib and Muhammad Shafee is similar to that in their applications to disqualify Sri Ram at the Criminal High Court.

Najib and Muhammad Shafee had, separately, filed for the judicial review in December last year to challenge the Attorney General's decision to appoint Sri Ram as a deputy public prosecutor under Section 376 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

They had named the Attorney General/Public Prosecutor, the Government of Malaysia and Sri Ram as the respondents.

They sought a court order to revoke Sri Ram’s appointment or recuse him, saying that his letter of appointment is invalid.

They are also seeking a declaration that there is a conflict of interest in Sri Ram's appointment and requested for an order to prohibit him (Sri Ram) from leading the prosecution team in all of their cases, including on corruption, abuse of power and money laundering.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Shafee when met by reporters after the case said he would not apply to stay for Najib's 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) ongoing trial pending disposal of the judicial review proceedings.

“If we win in the judicial review application, the 1MDB trial will be declared a nullity,” he said.

Sri Ram led the prosecution team in Najib’s 1MDB trial. — Bernama

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