Lawyer fails in bid to stop contempt proceedings by AG

Two articles by lawyer Arun Kasi in reference to allegations of judicial misconduct were published on the Aliran online portal recently.

PUTRAJAYA: Lawyer Arun Kasi today failed to set aside a leave application obtained by the attorney-general to begin contempt proceedings against him for allegedly scandalising Federal Court judges.

A five-member Federal Court bench chaired by Ramly Ali said they were not agreeable with the submission by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla that the AG had no legal standing to institute contempt proceedings under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution.

Ramly said there were a “wealth of legal authorities”, locally and in other Commonwealth countries, that the AG or any other private party could act against those who show disrespect to the court.

“In this case, the AG brings this motion to protect the public confidence in the administration of justice,” he said in a unanimous ruling.

The other judges on the bench were Azahar Mohamed, Rohana Yusuf, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Nalini Pathmanathan.

Ramly said Article 145 should be given a broad construction that took into account the functions of the AG which formed an inherent part of his office.

He also said that, unless in exceptional circumstances, the court should not initiate contempt charges as it would then be seen both as prosecutor and judge.

However, he said the contempt proceeding against Arun could begin in the Federal Court in the light of express provision under Article 126, Section 13 of the Courts of Judicature Act as well as Rules of the Court.

Earlier Haniff , representing Arun, whose real name is Arunachalam Kasi, submitted that the AG had no power to cite his client for contempt as he could only do so based on a written law as provided under Article 145.

“There is no written law now for the AG to move contempt proceeding against my client,” he said.

He said the contempt proceedings should begin in the High Court as his client would have two rights of appeal.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas replied that his power extended beyond the constitution and he could rely on common law principles as he was the “guardian of public interest and fountain of justice”.

Thomas said Article 126 empowered the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court to hear contempt proceedings at first instance.

Ramli fixed March 28 for the contempt charge against Arun to be heard by the same bench.

On Feb 27, a three-member Federal Court granted an ex parte application by Thomas for leave to initiate contempt proceedings against Arun, who allegedly criticised a proceeding and decision of an apex court bench delivered last year.

Last week, Arun applied to set aside the ex parte application.

Arun courted trouble when his two articles in reference to allegations of judicial misconduct and removal of certain parts of Court of Appeal judge Abdul Hamid Abu Backer’s dissenting judgment were published on the Aliran online portal recently.