Court hearings can carry on in absence of counsel, says lawyer

The federal constitution provides accused persons a right to counsel but the right is not absolute, says a lawyer.

PETALING JAYA: In light of recent postponements of criminal trials in the absence of defence counsel, a lawyer here says that accused persons do not have an absolute right to counsel.

A Srimurugan said it was most important that the chosen counsel be able and willing to represent the accused.

He said a judgement in 1980 regarding the presence of a defence counsel held that the Federal Constitution provision on the right to counsel did not restrict the power of the court to fix any date of hearing.

Neither did it prohibit the court from hearing cases in the absence of counsel, he said, in reference to a judgement by the late Harun Hashim in the case of Mohamed Abdullah versus Public Prosecutor in 1980 where an adjournement had been sought.

“That judgment states an accused could have a counsel of his choice provided the lawyer is able and willing,” he told FMT.

Srimurugan said Justice Harun had said it is the duty of an accused person to attend court when called upon and any obligation on counsel arose by reason of a contract between himself and the client.

He said lawyers should also be wary of Rule 6 of the Legal Profession (Practice & Etiquette Rules) 1978 which says a lawyer should not accept a brief unless he is certain of being able to represent the client on the required date.