PUTRAJAYA, Aug 26 2019 : The Court of Appeal today granted leave to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to commence a judicial review to challenge the legality of the appointment of former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as a senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in their trials.
A three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim, Datuk Lau Bee Lan and Datuk Has Zanah Mehat allowed the appeals brought by the duo to set aside the High Court dismissal of their applications to obtain leave to initiate the judicial review.
“We are unanimous in our decision. We find merit in the appeal. We are of the view that the nature and jurisdiction of the judicial review application, as well as the disqualification motion filed in the criminal court, are separate and distinct,” said Justice Hasnah, who chaired the bench.
She said the issue of multiplicity does not arise as the remedies sought are different.
She also said that the court found that there is an arguable case and the judicial review applications are not frivolous or an abuse of the court process.
Justice Hasnah then fixed tomorrow for case management of the judicial review cases before the deputy registrar of the High Court (Appellate and Special Powers Division) in Kuala Lumpur.
On Feb 20 this year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Najib and Muhammad Shafee’s applications for leave to commence a judicial review, prompting them to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The then High Court judge, Datuk Azizah Nawawi (now Court of Appeal judge), in her judgment, said it is more convenient for the issue on Sri Ram’s appointment to be addressed in the criminal High Court as similar applications are pending in that court and the prayer sought in the leave application by Najib and Muhammad Shafee is similar to that in their applications to disqualify Sri Ram at the Criminal High Court.
Najib and Muhammad Shafee had, separately, filed for the judicial review in December last year to challenge the Attorney-General’s decision to appoint Sri Ram as a deputy public prosecutor under Section 376 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
They had named the Attorney-General/Public Prosecutor, the Government of Malaysia and Sri Ram as the respondents.
They sought a court order to revoke Sri Ram’s appointment or recuse him, saying that his letter of appointment is invalid.
They are also seeking a declaration that there is a conflict of interest in Sri Ram’s appointment and requested for an order to prohibit him (Sri Ram) from leading the prosecution team in all of their cases, including on corruption, abuse of power and money laundering.
Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib told reporters that Najib’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) trial will go on as scheduled on Wednesday before Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court and that Sri Ram will lead the prosecution team.
On today’s decision, he said the Attorney-General’s Chambers will decide on the next course of action.
Muhammad Shafee, however, said the prosecution should postpone the trial set for Wednesday because any prosecution by an unqualified person will nullify the case.
“But we don’t want to be accused of delaying the trial again. It is up to them. The ball is at their feet because the court has given us the leave,” he said.
In the appeal today, Muhammad Shafee represented Najib while lawyer Harvinderjit Singh represented Muhammad Shafee.
Attorney-General Tommy Thomas appeared for the respondents. – Bernama