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Monday, May 30, 2016

Late Karpal still guilty of sedition, but fine reduced to RM1,800

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Two years after Karpal Singh’s death, the Court of Appeal today upheld his conviction on sedition for comments he made in relation to the Perak constitutional crisis.
However, the court allowed Karpal’s appeal on his RM4,000 fine, reducing it to RM1,800.

This means that had the vocal lawyer still been alive, he would not be disqualified as a Member of Parliament and would not lose his pensions.
However, the three-member panel was split in its decision on his conviction, with Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat dissenting in the judgment.
Justice Mohtarudin Baki said Karpal’s offence was serious as it had involved the sovereignty of a ruler.
“Therefore the conviction against the appellant is safe,” Justice Mohtarudin said in delivering the judgment, which was the same view held by Justice Kamardin Hashim as well.
Karpal was charged for his statement made at a press conference that the late Perak sultan’s decision to remove then Pakatan Rakyat menteri besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin (photo) could be challenged in a court of law.
Justice Mohtarudin said question arose as to whether to draw the line in making a statement to show that the ruler had been misled or mistaken in exercising his prerogative power within the limit as provided by the Sedition Act, without any seditious tendency.
It was quite obvious, he added, that Karpal had crossed his limits during the press conference when he uttered phrases such as ‘firm reminder to him (the ruler)’ and ‘he (the ruler) is not immune from being taken to court’.
“It is apparent that the appellant clearly had mens rea (criminal intent) in making such statements…” said Justice Mohtarudin.
Although Karpal had acted in his capacity as an MP and had given a legal opinion based on his knowledge in the legal field, Justice Mohtarudin said one also has a responsibility to be absolutely sure that remarks made against a ruler and his prerogative powers have no seditious tendency.
Karpal’s continued claims that the ruler had no power and that he is not immune from being taken to court showed that he had crossed the line between uttering words that are legally permitted and ones that have a seditious tendency, he said.
“It is unreasonable for the appellant, who was from a legal background, especially with vast knowledge in constitutional law, to have come up with such statements.”
Justice Mohtarudin added that the former Bukit Gelugor lawmaker’s ultimatum to the former Perak sultan was disrespectful to be made against any ruler of a state.
Disagreement expressed
Justice Tengku Maimun in her dissenting judgment had expressed her disagreement in the way in which the High Court had delivered its verdict on Karpal’s sedition conviction.
The High Court, she said, had not appropriately addressed Karpal’s defence and had merely repeated the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision.
Calling it a serious misdirection, Justice Tengku Maimun said it was therefore sufficient to warrant the conviction being set aside.
Before the judges made the decision on the fine, Puchong MP and Karpal’s son Gobind Singh Deo asked that they consider the conviction as a form of punishment, as well as Karpal’s four decades in the public service.
With the court then reducing the fine to RM1,800, this means that Karpal’s widow, Gurmit Kaur stands to collect Karpal’s pension and other benefits as an MP.
Gurmit was seen teary-eyed after the decision was made to reduce the fine before being hugged by her sons.
Gobind later told reporters that it was highly likely that they would be appealing against the decision.

Apart from Karpal's family members, also present in the court today were DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang as well as DAP parliamentarians Teresa Kok and Lim Lip Eng.
Karpal was initially acquitted by the High Court, but the Court of Appeal ordered him to enter his defence. Following that, the High Court in February 2014 found the senior lawyer guilty of sedition.
In March, Karpal was fined RM4,000. Karpal passed away in a road accident a month later.
His firm filed an appeal to set aside his conviction in August the same year.-Mkini

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