Despite Karpal acquittal, questions linger over judicial interference

Former DAP chairman, the late Karpal Singh.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 – Had former DAP chairman Karpal Singh still been alive, he would have been clearly happy with the ruling by the Federal Court in acquitting him of a sedition charge filed against him in 2009 over his comments on then Perak ruler, the late Sultan Azlan Shah.

But the revelations in an affidavit by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer in support of this final appeal filed by his daughter Sangeet Kaur, would likely have left him still dissatisfied over the alleged misconduct of the judiciary in relation to an earlier appeal over his conviction.

Yesterday’s judgment by the seven-member panel of the apex court in Putrajaya ruled that the conviction by the High Court on February 21, 2014 was wrong, and by that token also dismissed the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the conviction on May 30, 2016.

In 2010, Karpal was charged for saying that the sultan’s removal of former Perak menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin of Pakatan Rakyat, and appointment of Barisan Nasional’s Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new menteri besar, could be questioned in court.

‘Miscarriage of justice’ in Karpal sedition conviction

In its ruling, the Federal Court panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim said the High Court and Court of Appeal had been wrong in failing to consider Karpal’s defence to the sedition charge over his remarks concerning the Perak sultan’s actions in the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009.

The seven judges concurred that there had been “serious misdirection” when the High Court decided to convict the former Bukit Gelugor MP for sedition and punishing him with a RM4,000 fine.

It was a “substantial miscarriage of justice which is not curable under proviso to Subsection 92(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964”, Zaharah was reported to have said.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh

Following the ruling, Karpal’s son and successor in the Bukit Gelugor constituency, Ramkarpal (pic), spoke for the family in expressing their happiness.

“We believe justice has been served. We are very happy with the ruling,” he told reporters outside the court, as he stood with his mother and sister, who added that the main reason to proceed with the appeal was to clear her father’s name.

Karpal was killed in an accident on the North-South Expressway (PLUS) on April 17, 2014.

Federal Court disallows affidavit use as evidence

On March 21, the Federal Court had dismissed a motion to allow the affidavit by Hamid to be entered as evidence in the appeal.

In the affidavit, it was claimed there were instances of misconduct and corruption involving some judges, among numerous incidences of judicial interference within the Malaysian judiciary. This had allegedly included judicial interference in Karpal’s 2016 appeal against the sedition conviction.

In his affidavit, Hamid alleged that a senior Court of Appeal judge who was involved in deciding Karpal’s sedition appeal had confessed to him that the verdict of the case was changed.

The initial verdict was said to have been in favour of Karpal but the Court of Appeal then voted 2-1 to uphold his earlier conviction.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed that a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) will be set up to investigate claims made by Hamid in his 63-page affidavit.