PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today sentenced Arunachalam Kasi, better known as Arun Kasi, to 30 days’ jail and RM40,000 fine after finding him guilty of writing two articles critical of a court judgment.
It also dismissed the lawyer’s application for a stay pending a review of the conviction and sentence.
Ramly Ali, who chaired a five-member Federal Court bench, said the lawyer had not tendered an unreserved apology despite a specific query from the court.
He said the bench is also unconvinced that Arun’s articles were written in public interest.
“It is clear to us that the authority of the law, as administered by the court, was flouted,” Ramly said, adding that as an officer of the court, Arun was expected to uphold the court’s dignity.
Given the circumstances, he said, the appropriate sentence would be imprisonment of 30 days from today and a fine of RM40,000 or a further 30 days’ jail.
The others on the bench were Azahar Mohamed, Rohana Yusuf, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Nallini Pathmanathan.
Arun, who also mitigated in addition to his lawyer Wilson Joy Appukuttan, said he had not intended to undermine the judiciary but only wanted reforms to be carried out in the Asian International Arbitration Centre Malaysia.
“I regret what I have done, but I don’t intend to apologise,” he said.
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, in his submission for sentence, said he left it to the court but provided a list of cases in Malaysia and Singapore concerning the trend in punishment for contempt.
“As guardian of public interest and the rule of law, we have proved our case beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
In its broad grounds, the court said it is important to emphasise that the jurisdiction of the court does not exist to protect the dignity of individual judges.
“It serves to protect the third arm of the government,” Ramly said.
“Neither is such jurisdiction to be utilised to restrict honest criticism which is based on rational grounds.”
He added that the court was not persuaded that Arun’s articles were authored for public benefit.
This, he said, was why the court held that the sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offence committed.
Ramly said the issuance of the press release to Aliran was for the contents to be made public.
“In the ordinary course of events, advocates and solicitors do not issue such releases unless they are expressly mandated to or do so on behalf of the Bar,” he added.
He said Arun had faulted Aliran for editing his press releases but did nothing on his claim that the publisher added the words which scandalised the judiciary.
Ramly said Arun had made unfounded and unambiguous allegations against the Federal Court but failed to provided a rational basis for writing the articles.
Arun’s articles were published on the Aliran website, under the headlines “How a dissenting judgment sparked a major judicial crisis” on Feb 16 and “Tommy Thomas must look into arbitration centre that sparked judicial crisis” on Feb 22.
The articles were about the now-famous affidavit by Court of Appeal judge Abdul Hamid Abu Backer detailing alleged judicial misconduct.
A week later, Thomas obtained leave from the Federal Court to initiate contempt proceedings against Arun on grounds that the articles had scandalised the judges of the Federal Court.