Karpal Singh freed of sedition charge

Karpal Singh. (Facebook pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today acquitted the late Karpal Singh of a sedition charge for an offence allegedly committed 10 years ago.

A seven-member bench chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim said there had been serious misdirection by the High Court and Court of Appeal.

She said Karpal had given his defence under oath, and that the law required it to be considered by the trial judge.

“The judge at the end of the defence case merely relied on the (2012) judgment of the Court of Appeal,” she said.

She added that another Court of Appeal, in its majority ruling in 2016, also failed to consider Karpal’s defence.

“In the circumstances of this case, we are of the view that the failure was a serious misdirection and occasioned a substantial miscarriage of justice which is not curable under proviso to Subsection 92(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964,” she said in the unanimous ruling.

She also said the bench would not consider the other grounds in the appeal.

“Consequently, we allow both appeals against the conviction and sentence against the appellant,” she said.

The other members of the bench were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah, Ramly Ali, Alizatul Khir Osman Khairuddin, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Idrus Harun and Nallini Pathmanathan.

Karpal, a former DAP national chairman, was charged in 2010 for questioning the late Perak ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah, over the removal of former menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin during the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis.

Karpal died in an accident along the North-South Expressway near Gua Tempurung on April 17, 2014. His widow Gurmit Kaur, who is also the administrator of his estate, then became the substitute appellant.

On May 30, 2016, the Court of Appeal in a 2-1 ruling allowed Karpal’s appeal and reduced the RM4,000 fine to RM1,800. However, the conviction was upheld.

That ruling meant that Gurmit could enjoy Karpal’s pension and other benefits accorded to an elected representative.

Justice Mohtarudin Baki, along with justice Kamardin Hashim, ruled the conviction was safe.

“The accused crossed the line when he gave his comments about the sultan removing the former menteri besar. He was giving his comments. However, it’s not worthy to make such comments about a ruler,” Mohtarudin said.

However, dissenting judge Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, now elevated to the Federal Court, found that Karpal’s defence fell under Section 3(2) of the Sedition Act.

“The accused wanted to show the ruler was wrong,” she said.

The case has a chequered history as Karpal was initially acquitted by trial judge Azman Abdullah in June 2010. But the Court of Appeal in 2012 ordered him to enter his defence following an appeal by the government.

The same judge who acquitted Karpal found him guilty of the offence in 2014, a month before his death.

Earlier, lawyer Ramkarpal Singh, who is Karpal’s son, submitted that an acquittal was in order due to the serious misdirection by the High Court and the majority in the Court of Appeal.

He said the trial judge had not addressed his mind to independently consider Karpal’s defence.

“He was influenced by (the 2012) Court of Appeal ruling that Karpal had no defence available,” he added.

Ramkarpal said Karpal was merely giving his opinion that the ruler was misled or mistaken in some of his measures.

He said the Court of Appeal in 2016 recognised that the trial judge had erred in law and fact, but that two of the three judges affirmed the conviction.

“The majority also misdirected themselves in upholding the conviction,” he said, adding that Karpal was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial.