Is justice all about technicalities?

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It appears that the Opposition can only win Round 1! Whether it is the Kampung Buah Pala case, or Nizar’s case involving the Perak crisis or Anwar’s case with regard to getting the vital evidence for his defence – that seems to be the case! In all these instances, the High Court had shown a lot of wisdom, had taken the pain to understand the issues concerning these cases, and had delivered well-reasoned judgments that were impressive and well received by the people at large.

But when it comes to Round 2, it is zero! Disappointingly, at this level, justice doesn’t seem to be the primary concern of the judges. All they appear to be interested in is finding loop-holes in the law or they resort to technicalities to dismiss the cases.

The perception of the public is that court verdicts are predictable based on the panel of judges empanelled to hear cases. This is a tragic situation because it gives the impression that judgments are farcical and on the whole totally unacceptable. When people lose their faith in the judiciary, then the courts no longer stand as a bastion for justice.

In the case of Kampung Buah Pala, there were triable issues that were very apparent to the High Court but this was not a compelling factor in Rounds 2 or 3. The villagers lost out simply because the judges failed to address their plea based on the principles of justice.

In Nizar’s case, the constitutional provision which supported his position and which was recognised by the High Court as a matter grounded in justice and the rule of law was completely overlooked in Round 2.

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In Anwar’s case, the High Court, in respecting natural justice and recognising the amendment to Section 51A, ordered the prosecution “to allow Anwar’s lawyers to inspect CCTV recordings of the alleged crime scene, along with witness statement of the alleged victim, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and that of other witnesses as well as doctors’ notes”.

The High Court also ordered the “medical reports on Mohd Saiful from two hospitals – Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Pusrawi Hospital – and other  evidence favourable to the defence to be handed over to Anwar”.

This is a very fair judgment considering the fact that this information sought would eventually be made available to the defence during the trial. If that is the case, and when the amendment to Section 51A allows this, what is the justification in disallowing this vital information to the defence at this stage?

When a person is charged and his freedom is at stake, he deserves to be given every opportunity to prove his innocence. However, the Court of Appeal had overlooked this very important principle, giving the impression that the court is not concerned with justice and hardly looks at the substantive issues which deserve their critical attention.

P Ramakrishnan

President 

7 November 2009

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