The Court of Three Judges has decided that lawyer M Ravi who was ordered to stop practising in Feb 2015 should be prohibited from applying for a practicing certificate for a period of 2 years. In its judgment released today (27 Oct), the Court said that this was necessary to safeguard the interests of the public and to uphold public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.
Mr Ravi’s case was brought before the Court of Three Judges after he pleaded guilty to four charges of misconduct before a disciplinary tribunal last year. The tribunal, in its report released in December 2015 said that a prima facie case had been established against Mr Ravi since he had “pleaded guilty to the four charges and his mental condition as per the evidence of Dr (Tommy) Tan (a psychiatrist) does not exculpate him for his various acts of misconduct but are mitigating factors only”.
Mr Ravi had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of misconduct, which include creating a ruckus at the Law Society premises on 10 Feb 2015 and another charge of making inappropriate statements against the Law Society president and his family members in a Facebook post. He was also found guilty of making false allegations against two lawyers in Feb 2015.
The tribunal referred Mr Ravi’s case to the Court of Three Judges as it had no power to penalise a non-practising lawyer.
On 6 Sep, Mr Ravi’s lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam sought an overall fine of $10,000 ($2,500 per offence) and pleaded for the Court to take his client’s mental illness into account.
The Law Society’s lawyer, Mr Sean La’Brooy, did not object to a fine. He however, in arguing that Mr Ravi’s condition should not “exonerate” him, sought a higher quantum of at least $5,000 for one of the offences.
The three judges that heard the case — CJ Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang – described Mr Ravi’s conduct as “reprehensible” and “disturbing”.
CJ Menon had then asked: “(Are we) not going to hold a solicitor to the standards expected of him? … The whole thing may have been avoided if (Mr Ravi) had taken the doctor’s advice … Should we say because he has a medical condition, we punish him differently?”
The Court had other sentencing options besides prohibiting Mr Ravi from practicing. Among these options are to censure him, to order him to pay a penalty of not more than $20,000, or to strike his name off the roll of lawyers.
In delivering the verdict today, CJ Menon said that the Court was presented with a situation where Mr Ravi has a mental condition which has in the past caused him to act in a manner unbecoming of a lawyer. He said that there is a possibility that this may happen again in the future.
“In this circumstances, we consider that anything short of prohibiting the respondent for a substantial period of time from applying for a practicing certificate would be inadequate,” the verdict read.
Commenting on the verdict Mr Ravi said the following in his Facebook:
“The Court of Appeal handed out a judgement today prohibiting me from practising law for a period of two years. I have already been out of practice for more than 18 months. My doctor had certified me fit to practice since December last year.The Law Society had approved my application for Practising Certificate in August 2016. However the Attorney General objected to my Practising Certificate. During the hearing before the Court of Appeal the Law Society had agreed that a fine is an appropriate penalty in line with the recommendation made by the Disciplinary Tribunal below.
I accept that I did not behave appropriately when I was unwell. However, the Court of Appeal’s Judgment is acutely disproportionate in view of the Disciplinary Tribunals recommendation of a fine. The effect of the Court of Appeal’s judgment means I am put (out) of Practice of Law for close to 4 years.
However in as much I am devastated, this will not deter me from continuing my work in the field of international human rights and constitutional law and contribute to society where I can. To this extent, I will continue my work by assisting the firm of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP in my current role as a Head of Knowledge Management and Strategic Alliance Division.”