Provide grounds for decision to free Karpal of sedition charge, says lawyer

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has urged the Federal Court which acquitted the late Karpal Singh of a sedition charge to provide its written grounds as guidance for all interested parties.

Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said this would raise awareness among lower courts, the public, and legal profession that there are defences available to accused persons charged with sedition.

“It is also the duty of every apex court to provide written reasons for its decision, because its findings are binding on all courts below,” he told FMT.

Syed Iskandar said in an earlier appeal by the prosecution in 2012, the Court of Appeal held that there was no defence to the charge.

“The case was therefore remitted to the High Court for defence to be called, and Karpal was found guilty in 2014,” he added.

In 2016, another Court of Appeal in a 2-1 ruling maintained Karpal’s conviction but reduced the RM4,000 fine to RM1,800.

Syed Iskandar said the Federal Court ruling by a seven-member bench last week was in effect a reversal of findings in the two Court of Appeal judgements.

“Since the Court of Appeal decisions were reversed, reasons should be given so that the lower courts, public, and the legal profession are aware of the defences to sedition.

“The public will also then be able to know what is seditious and what is not.”

Noting that the case concerned a leading politician and former senior member of the Bar, Syed Iskandar said reasons should be given for vindicating him.

The Federal Court freed Karpal with the bench unanimously holding that the failure to consider his defence was a serious misdirection and substantial miscarriage of justice.

Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim, who delivered an oral ruling, 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.

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

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.

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

Ramkarpal, who is also Karpal’s son, said failure of the court to consider Karpal’s defence also amounted to denying him his constitutional right to a fair trial.