Najib, Shafee’s appeals to disqualify Sri Ram as senior DPP dismissed

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Sri Ram to continue as lead prosecutor in trials involving Najib and Shafee.

Yusof Mat Isa

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah failed in their appeals to disqualify Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in their respective court cases.

A three-man panel comprising Justices Datuk Yaacob Md Sam, Datuk Lee Heng Cheong and Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali, in a unanimous decision, dismissed the appeals brought by Najib and Muhammad Shafee.

“We are of the view that we have no doubt that Sri Ram is more than qualified as a fit and proper person to be appointed as senior DPP,” said Justice Yaacob who delivered the court’s decision.

He said the then Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was also satisfied that Sri Ram was a fit and proper person within the meaning of section 376 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to be appointed as senior DPP.

Justice Yaacob said the court agreed with the High Court judge that there was nothing in Section 376 (3) of CPC which provides that a fit and proper person to be a DPP must come from the judicial and legal services or public servant, adding that there was no such requirement in law.

The Court of Appeal judge said it was clear in amending section 376 (3) of the CPC, the Parliament had intended to give power to the Attorney-General to appoint and designate any fit and proper person as senior DPP.

Justice Yaacob said the court was of the opinion that section 376 (3) is a stand-alone provision on the appointment of anyone who is considered a fit and proper person to be appointed as DPP or senior DPP.

He said that section was amended to allow the Attorney-General cum public prosecutor to appoint a DPP so that the conduct of the prosecution is handled by an experienced DPP commensurate to the corresponding complexity of the case.

He also said both Najib and Muhammad Shafee also failed to prove that the Attorney-General had acted in contravention of the laws or acted in mala fide in appointing Sri Ram as senior DPP.

“The High Court did not err in dismissing the judicial review (brought by Najib and Muhammad Shafee) which warrant appellate intervention,” he said.

Justice Yaacob also allowed for the costs of RM10,000 fixed by the High Court to be set aside.

On Aug 28 last year, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed the duo’s judicial review applications to remove the former Federal Court judge (Sri Ram) as senior DPP in their respective cases.

Najib filed the judicial review application to disqualify Sri Ram in his 1MDB-linked cases in December 2018 while Muhammad Shafee also filed a judicial review application to recuse Sri Ram from his RM9.5 million money laundering trial.

Najib and Muhammad Shafee sought a court order to revoke Sri Ram’s appointment or recuse him, saying that his letter of appointment was invalid.

They also want a declaration that there was a conflict of interest in Sri Ram’s appointment and requested an order to prohibit him from leading the prosecution team in all of their cases, including on corruption, abuse of power and money laundering.

A team of lawyers led by Muhammad Shafee represented Najib while Harvinderjit Singh and Harvinder Singh Sidhu appeared for Muhammad Shafee.

Senior federal counsels Shamsul Bolhassan and Liew Horng Bin appeared for the government, the Attorney-General and Sri Ram.

The court proceedings were conducted virtually.