No need for a live broadcast of Najib’s trial — Hafiz Hassan

APRIL 2 — I agree with Ramkarpal Singh that we must allow the law to take its course in the impending trial of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

However, I am intrigued by Ramkarpal’s contention that the trial should be “[b]ehind closed doors so as to ensure the judge is not unduly influenced.”

Section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that the place in which the trial of an offence is held shall be deemed an open and public court to which the public generally may have access. And it is well accepted that the place of trial includes places other than the court premise or building.

Thus, there is nothing to restrict the court to conduct a trial outside the court building so long as the public is not specifically excluded.

Najib is undoubtedly entitled to a fair trial. Fair trial is ensured, among others, not by holding the trial behind closed doors but by having the court deemed an open and public court, as a consequence of which any member of the public is entitled to watch the proceeding.

The High Court in PP v Karpal Singh [2002] 2 MLJ 657 explains this concept of an open court as having two aspects.

Firstly, with regard to proceedings in the court itself, it requires that they should be held in open court to which the press and public are admitted.

Secondly, in criminal cases at any rate, all evidence communicated to the court is communicated publicly.

A fair trial for Najib is ensured by the fact that it is conducted in public and that any member of the public is entitled to watch the proceeding.

It is on this account that there is no need for a live broadcast of Najib’s trial.

The right to a fair trial is a fundamental right. According to a great American jurist, Arthur T. Vanderbilt, everything that is necessary to accord an accused a fair trial is an essential of a sound judicial system.

What is essential then is that the judge must be “utterly independent and beholden only to the law and to the Constitution, thoroughly grounded in his knowledge of the law and of human nature, of such a temperament that he can hear both sides of a case before making up his mind, devoted to the law and justice, industrious, and, above all, honest and believed to be honest.”

So again, do we need a live broadcast of Najib’s trial? Interestingly, Vanderbilt had offered the following observation more than 60 years ago in 1953:

“All too often the tendency is for a trial to become a battle between opposing counsels rather than an orderly, rational search for the truth on the merits of the controversy... Three factors in particular contribute to this... [one of which is the perception] that a trial, and especially a criminal trial, is a sporting event rather than an orderly search for truth with justice as its great objective. In many communities, counsels are still rated primarily for their histrionic ability.” (see Arthur T. Vanderbilt, The Essentials of a Sound Judicial System in Selected Writings of Arthur T. Vanderbilt, Fannie J Klein & Joel S Lee (eds), Oceania, 1967)

Let’s just save the popcorn for the movies.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.