PUTRAJAYA: Twenty one people, including a lawyer, were today fined a total of RM2.15 million after they pleaded guilty to contempt of court for claiming that a Federal Court bench had plagiarised its judgment.
Lawyer T C Nayagam was slapped with a RM150,000 fine or 12 months’ jail while the rest were fined RM100,000 each or eight months’ imprisonment. The court ordered the fines to be settled by tomorrow.
A five-man Federal Court bench, led by Suryadi Halim Omar, in passing sentence, said their act against the court was undeniably serious and besmirched the good name of the judiciary.
“They have subverted the course of justice, undermined public confidence , ridiculed, scandalised and offended the dignity of the judiciary,” Suryadi said.
Anyone found guilty of contempt can be jailed or fined. They can also get off by issuing an apology.
Earlier, lawyers representing the 21 informed the court their clients had changed their mind and decided to apologise and plead guilty to the offence.
The court, however, deferred decision on former lawyer V K Lingam and three others — Lim Ah Seng, Siew Siew Hua and Doris See Siew Lian — as they were absent from today’s proceedings.
Lingam, who was implicated in judicial fixing by a Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2007, and 24 others had alleged that a Federal Court bench had plagiarised its judgment in a civil case.
Senior Federal Counsel Alice Loke told reporters that the Attorney-General’s Chambers would write to the court for a case management date.
The contempt proceedings had been adjourned numerous times over the last four years, especially due to the absence of Lingam, who is said to be receiving medical treatment overseas.
Counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik appeared for 12 majority contributories, David Gurupatham represented eight minority contributories while T Gunaseelan was counsel for Nayagam.
The lawyers urged the court to impose a non-custodial sentence on their clients.
Hishyam Teh said his clients were old and sickly while David said they acted on the instruction of Nayagam.
“My clients used temperate language in their application to cite that the judgment had copied submissions of one the litigants,” he said.
Gunaseelan said his client had filed an affidavit to explain the circumstances that led to him filing the applicaton on behalf of the eight on the plagiarism claim.
Loke submitted that contempt was a criminal offence and that the sentence must commensurate with the behaviour of the accused.
“However, I am not pressing for a custodial sentence and leave it to the court,” she said.
On Aug 23, 2013, Lingam and the rest failed to set aside their contempt charge as the court ruled there was a prima facie case against them.
Trial was then set for Dec 8, 2013, but Lingam did not turn up as he was seeking medical treatment for a full hip replacement.
Following his continued absence, the court fixed today (Nov 21) as the final chance for Lingam to appear before them.
The government is conducting the prosecution after taking over the contempt proceedings against Lingam, former Kian Joo Can Factory Bhd (KJCF) group managing director See Teow Chuan and 23 others who were the majority and minority contributories of Kian Joo Holdings Sdn Bhd (KJH).
KJH liquidators Ooi Woon Chee and Ng Kim Tuck were the original applicants, but withdrew the contempt charges against Lingam and the rest.
The legal dispute that led to the contempt proceedings began in 2009 when one the respondents went to the High Court after a rival company, Can-One International Sdn Bhd, won the tender to purchase a 32.9% stake in KJFC.
The respondents failed in the High Court to stop Can-One from acquiring the shares. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision.
The case was then taken to the Federal Court where a three-member panel of judges ruled in favour of the liquidators.
The respondents then filed a review, citing plagiarism in the court’s written judgment but it was dismissed by the Federal Court.