Defence has no right to demand Sri Ram’s appointment letter, High Court told

22 Feb 2019 / 16:53 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Attorney-General Tommy Thomas (pix) told the High Court here today, that the defence in Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) cases, has no legal right in law to demand the appointment letter of former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as senior prosecutor, as the matter was a matter of lawyer-client privilege.

Thomas said a litigant had no legal right under Malaysian laws to have sight of the letter of appointment, because that is clearly a privileged document between client and counsel.

“It contains secret and confidential terms that are not meant to be viewed by third parties. The applicant has no legal, equitable, enforceable right, under the law to demand the letter of the appointment.

“Basically, the person that I appoint doesn’t have to be a lawyer. What the statutes say is that he only needs to be a fit and proper person,” he said in his submissions at the hearing of the application by Najib’s defence team to disqualify Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in the 1MDB cases, before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

Therefore, Thomas said the defence lawyers had no right to demand or to view the appointment certificate.

“On the same note, the prosecution has no legal right to ask for discovery or appointment letter for any counsel for any accused. That is not our business.

“If we do not ask letters of appointment, how dare they ask how Sri Ram was appointed? Therefore, I concluded that there was no legal and enforceable right to the applicant to ask (for) the letter.”

Tommy further said he was empowered under Section 376 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to appoint ‘fit and proper persons’ to act as senior deputy public prosecutors, deputy public prosecutors or assistant public prosecutors.

He added that Sri Ram’s appointment should not be in dispute because a media release on the matter that was published on Aug 31 lof ast year was self-explanatory.

“The government of Malaysia is entitled to the best legal talent in the country and the best legal talent may not be limited to the (AG’s) Chambers,“ he said.

He added that the government was limited to a pool of over 1,000 lawyers, while the “luxury of choice” is found in the private sector, such as the 18,000 lawyers belonging to the Malaysian Bar.

He said by not being allowed to appoint its prosecutors of choice, the prosecution would be “handicapped and not treated equally in a level playing field”.

“So, for those reasons I ask for this application to be dismissed,“ he said.

Replying to the defence’s submissions on Wednesday that Sri Ram was involved in the investigation of 1MDB cases, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib explained that Sri Ram was only appointed as Senior DPP on Aug 31 last year and the accused was charged on Sept 20, 2018.

“How can they even imagine that Sri Ram can be involved and interfere in the investigation of such a huge magnitude case just within the short span of 20 days. As a DPP, our core duty is to supervise investigations especially on legal issues, for example what is and what is not admissible as evidence.

“They (defence) alleged that Sri Ram is biased towards accused. I submit that even if that is true, the trial will still be under the control of the judge. For example, Sri Ram had urged the sessions court to impose extra conditions including barring the accused from talking about the case in public.

“However, the Sessions Court judge did not entertain his request. He even cannot influence a sessions court Judge, what makes the defence think that Sri Ram can do it on a High Court judge who is more senior?“ he said.

The hearing of submissions continues on Feb 28. — Bernama

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