Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Anwar's Verdict: Scandalising Our Court

Hantu Laut

It is indeed sad that many Malaysians continue to scandalise our court, alleging interference from the executive to sway judgement in favour of the government.

Strangely, the Malaysian court had not taken any action to protect its dignity and independence on the many allegations of bias and prejudices in cases involving Anwar and members of the opposition.

Unfair criticism alleging bias in court decisions can construe contempt of court. 

Disregarding court order, or in any way interfering with the way the court does its job is contempt of court and most courts take such allegations seriously and have considerable power to deal with offenders.

Why is the Malaysian court silent of such debasement and humiliation?

As much as I agree that the judiciary should be opened to criticism and comments to improve its performance, it goes without saying that allegations of corruption and bias are serious matters that the court should not ignore.

Contempt of court may differ from one country to the other, but basically are the same, can be of civil or criminal nature.

Some Malaysians thinks they are better judges than the judges in our court of law.

There are numerous articles and comments in news portal and social media on the recent Anwar's verdict that can be construed as contempt.

I am not sure whether Malaysia has specific written law on contempt or up to judges to cite contempt.

Ibrahim Ali and a blogger were cited for contempt here.

Read the following article below on contempt of court.

In this chapter, we see the ways in which the courts protect their dignity and their independence. We see the ways in which this may cause difficulties for journalists, and how these difficulties can be avoided.

What is contempt?

As we saw in Chapters 64 to 66 on court reporting, in democracies the courts decide what is true and what is not, who is in the right and who is in the wrong.
When they have decided, they usually make a decision which will put matters right. They may order a person to stop doing something which is wrong; they may order a person to pay compensation to somebody he has wronged; they may punish a person who has broken the law by fining him or sending him to prison.
Court proceedings would be a waste of time if nobody needed to do what the court told them, or if the court had no power to enforce its orders.
Contempt of court is disregarding the court's orders, or in any way interfering with the way the court does its job. Most courts take this very seriously, and have great power to deal with offenders.
There are two types of contempt - civil contempt and criminal contempt. Of the two, criminal contempt is the one which is most likely to concern the working journalist, so let us consider that first.

Criminal contempt

As we have seen, the courts can only operate effectively if they are able to enforce their will. That is the main purpose of the law relating to civil contempt. However, in order to operate properly, the courts also need to be free from outside interference and to maintain their dignity. That, too, is protected by criminal contempt.
It is the business of the legislature to pass laws, but it is the business of the courts to administer them; when members of a government try to interfere in court proceedings or to influence court judgments, they are likely to be reminded sternly that they are interfering. If they persist, they may well find themselves in contempt of court, even if they are government ministers. Nobody is above the law.
Similarly, the courts will protect themselves from interference by people attempting to bribe or threaten anyone connected with a case. They will also protect themselves from interference by journalists, and we shall look in detail in a moment at exactly what journalists may and may not write during a court case.
Courts also guard their dignity. This is not because judges consider themselves to be special people, but because they see themselves as representatives of the law itself. It is the law which must be respected by all citizens, and in order to ensure that respect, the courts insist on maintaining dignity. Courts are usually large and imposing buildings with national emblems above the bench where the judges or magistrates sit; judges often wear robes and wigs and people bow to them in court. All of these things represent the great stature and dignity of courts, which in turn are meant to encourage people to respect and obey them.
Both these things - freedom from interference and maintenance of dignity - are protected by the law relating to criminal contempt. The following things are prohibited:
Outrages on judges in court
It is criminal contempt to assault or manhandle a judge, or to throw eggs or fruits at them.
Insolence to the court
It is criminal contempt to persist in being noisy in court, or to keep interrupting the proceedings, or to refuse to answer questions which have been properly put. Even something as simple as an onlooker – or journalist - reading a newspaper in court could be regarded by a judge as insolence.
Interference with witnesses or officers of the court
Officers of the court are the judge or magistrate, the clerk, lawyers, translators, jurors (if any) and anyone else involved in hearing the case. Interference generally means threats or bribes intended to influence the way in which the person does their job - either offering money in return for the desired verdict, or threatening violence if the unwanted verdict is returned.
Any publication which offends the dignity of the court
Judges are not above criticism, but there are limits to how extreme that criticism can be. For example, it would be criminal contempt if a newspaper, radio or television report suggested that judges were habitually drunk in court, or that they took bribes.
Any publication which prejudices the course of justice
A report of a court case which gives details of the defendant's previous criminal convictions, before the end of the trial, would be criminal contempt. This is because it may prejudice the judge, magistrate or jury against the defendant, if there are many previous convictions. This would reduce the chances of a fair trial. Previous convictions (often calledantecedents or priors) may not be revealed until after the verdict has been reached. They are then considered by the court to help it to decide on an appropriate punishment.

Read more.


Anonymous said...

Correct, Correct, Correct, Correct, Correct....

The infamous telephone conversation of VT Lingam , which demolished the Malaysian Judiciary's veneer of impartiality.

I really don't know whether there is any more such interference, but it will take a long time for many in the public to regain their trust in the judiciary's independence.

Purple Haze said...

The original dates for the Anwar sodomy appeal was scheduled to happen from 10 to 17 April (5 days). Lo and behold, at case management on 28 February, the presiding judge herself came down and requested for a 6 and 7 March date (2 days).

Under normal circumstances, this never happens because it is the Registrar that sets the date. So, it is very clear that the quick trial was arranged so that Anwar could not contest in Kajang since nomination day was around the corner.

Do you not think that the lawyers have some basis to protest the expediting of the hearing date and shortening of the tenure of the appeal hearing ?

Also, the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal based on the one technicality that DPP Shafee was steadfastly promoting. The reversal of an acquittal should be based on either an error in law by the lower court judge or new evidence.

There was no new evidence and the lower court judge has already explained his reasoning. The important fact is that there was no penetration - an important fact that is necessary to prove sodomy !!!

The analogy is someone claims to have been shot. He has the bullet, the weapon and accuses someone. However, there is no gunshot wound. Has he been shot ?