Why is the efficiency in hauling up movement control order offenders not reflected in cases where elite politicians are involved, P Ramakrishnan asks.
We turn to the courts for justice but when a simple court procedure mocks justice, how is justice served?
A retired civil servant was arrested for violating the movement control order (MCO) on Monday, 20 April 2020. He was to be charged the next day, Tuesday. We don’t know his age or why he was out on that day.
He arrived as early as 8.45am to be charged but his proceedings did not start until 4.15pm. The poor man had to wait seven-and-a-half hours before his case came up rather late towards the evening.
He pleaded not guilty and the Magistrate, Nur Farahain Roslan, granted bail of RM1,500 with one surety.
So far so good!
But a problem cropped up when it came to posting the bail. At this point in time, all the banks authorised to process bail applications had already closed for the day.
According to his lawyer, Tay Yi Kuan, the Maybank branch at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, which is authorised to process bail applications, was closed during the MCO.
As such, lawyers and family members of the accused would need to go to the only other authorised bank branch at Sri Hartamas. But that bank branch, it seems, closes around 2pm on weekdays during the MCO.
That was not the only problem.
Even the KL Court Complex’s bail counter closed at around 4pm. Thus, another avenue at the court premises was also not available when bail was granted.
According to the lawyer, “At about 3.15pm, I also found out that the e-jamin facility at the bail counter was not working.” This facility allows a bailor to make an online payment to the court within minutes. The accused’s son was the bailor and was present in court.
In other words, the bailor, who was the pensioner’s son, was there with cash and he was in a position to make payment immediately – but all the facilities to enable payment were not available to him. Thus, he could not post bail through no fault of his own.
All these facts – except the fact that the e-jamin facility at the bail counter was not working – were made known, and the lawyer applied to the magistrate if the bail could be posted the next day because of the extenuating circumstances.
The magistrate did not allow the application, resulting in the retiree being remanded overnight at the Sungai Buloh Prison.
The court ruling reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s wise words, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” Lincoln himself was a lawyer.
The bail was posted the next day and the accused was released.
Even though the accused was released the next morning when the bail was paid, the courts should have rightly taken note of the difficulty and the problems faced by the accused in posting bail that day when it was granted.
Not only was the MCO a contributory factor to the difficulty in posting bail but the court itself was responsible for this situation when the accused’s case was called so late in the day at 4.15 pm, thus making it difficult for him to post bail.
The salient and sore point is this: how could the court not recognise the fact that the MCO had made things difficult for this pensioner to post bail and the court itself had contributed to this problem when his case was called late in the day.
All this was beyond the pensioner’s control. These circumstances deserved to be considered sympathetically in the interest of justice. This was a situation where compassion was necessary. But the court seemed cold-hearted! It was incredulously indifferent to the situation when mercy was crying out for justice!
We wondered what happened to the famous Lady of Justice. Was she on leave or had she fled the court? Wasn’t she supposed to represent and symbolise justice, fairness, compassion, mercy, etc without considering the status of the person? That is why she is blindfolded!
We regret that there was no judicial discretion to reflect the noble qualities of justice. When it is said that justice is blind, it is not meant to be blind to the extenuating circumstances but it is meant to be absolutely just and fair.
What makes this injustice even more upsetting and glaring is that on 22 September 2018, Najib Razak, the former Prime Minister, was not only allowed to pay his bail the next day but he was also permitted to pay in instalments and to complete his bail payment within one week.
Of course, Najib was no insignificant pensioner! Therefore, he did not spend the night in prison unlike this unfortunate pensioner!
Surely it must be known that the dispensers of justice are allowed to use their discretion when arriving at an administrative decision. They are expected to be judicious in their decision.
The pensioner’s case was not a serious one and the maximum fine was only RM1,000, whereas Najib’s case was criminal and serious and his bail alone, imposed by the Sessions Court, was RM3.5m!
This is not the end of the sordid story.
See how fast the pensioner was arrested and charged! Arrested on Monday and charged the very next day. How come this efficiency was not reflected in the cases where elite politicians are concerned?
According to a news report, Deputy Health Minister I Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Perak executive council member Razman Zakaria and their entourage were apparently distributing provisions and eating together with a group of people at a tahfiz institution in Lenggong on 17 April 2020, Perak in violation of the MCO.
Prior to this, it was also reported that Terengganu Mentri Besar Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar went to visit his predecessor Ahmad Said on 17 April 2020 at his house in violation of the MCO.
The only difference between the poor pensioner’s case and those involving politicians is that the pensioner was nobody whereas the others were somebody! These important politicians are yet to be charged.
According to Joseph Addision, “Justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is always, therefore, represented as blind.”