Lorry driver accused of insulting Malays should have been given bail, say lawyers

Karitikesoo Valu being led from the Sessions Court after claiming trial last week.

GEORGE TOWN: A criminal lawyer has questioned the lack of bail for a man charged at the Sessions Court here with misusing the internet by insulting the Malays and Islam.

V Parthipan, the criminal law subcommittee chairman of the Penang Bar, said the accused should have been granted bail as provided for by law.

Lorry driver Karitikesoo Valu, 43, had on Friday claimed trial to the charge under Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998. No bail was offered. His next court mention is on April 23.

Parthipan said since the CMA is silent on bail, matters concerning bail automatically fall under Section 387 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which allows bail for an accused.

“In this case, the prosecutor did not offer bail and there was no reason given. The accused’s lawyer also asked the judge to consider bail but, unfortunately, bail was not given.

“If a person is charged under a particular section of the law with an offence that is non-bailable, then the counsel can ask the court to consider bail under Section 388 of the CPC.”

Parthipan said Karitikesoo had been slapped with a sensitive charge involving religion and race.

“He is claiming trial and he should be given a fair chance to defend himself by being bailed so that he can prepare for his defence with his lawyers,” he told FMT.

Lawyer Baljit Singh said that without bail, the accused was “as good as sentenced” even before the trial begins, given the month-long period before his next court hearing.

“What happens if he is found not guilty later on?” he added.

Lawyer RSN Rayer also agreed that the accused should have been offered bail, with sureties and restrictions, as it is not a drug trafficking case or one involving the death penalty where bail is not offered.

“The accused is a Malaysian and there is no possibility of him fleeing the country. The court can impose conditions such as requiring him to report to the police station or offering a high bail amount.

“Every man is innocent until proven guilty,” he said, adding that the accused’s lawyer should apply for a revision of the case at the High Court.

Another lawyer noted a case at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur last Friday involving the CMA where both accused were released on RM5,000 bail with one surety each.

The lawyer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said while the offence was non-bailable, the judge had offered them bail.

Farmer Sharil Mohd Sarif, 36, and sales promoter TR Thurkai Devi, 32, had claimed trial under Section 233(1)(a) of the CMA 1998 for insulting the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. They will return to the court on April 8.