Singapore — The lawyer who appealed successfully against the conviction of Indonesian domestic helper Parti Liyani has been praised not only by the judge who heard the appeal but also by migrant worker groups.
Mr Anil Balchandani and his firm, however, issued a statement giving credit back to the migrant workers’ group that helped Ms Parti, adding that there are many others who are in similar situations “who languish in shelters and our prisons” and who need help.
Mr Balchandani, who is the managing proprietor of Red Lion Circle Advocates and Solicitors, took the pro bono case in a trial that began more than a year ago involving accusations of theft against Ms Parti by her former employer, Mr Liew Mun Leong and his family. Mr Liew is the Chairman of the Changi Airport Group (CAG).
The helper worked for the Liew family from 2007 until 2016. On March 20, 2019, District Judge Olivia Low found Ms Parti guilty of four counts of theft. She was sentenced to 26 months in jail for allegedly stealing more than $34,000 worth of goods from the Liew family.
The Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a migrant worker group, approached Mr Balchandani to represent Ms Parti. He submitted in the appeal that Ms Parti had been framed in order to prevent her from filing a complaint with the Manpower Ministry against the Liews for illegal deployment.
Justice Chan Seng Onn, who on Sept 4 acquitted Ms Parti of the charges against her, praised the lawyer, writing in his judgement:
“I would like to commend Mr Anil for the pro-bono services that he has rendered for this case: The trial itself took 22 days with extensive cross-examination of the Prosecution witnesses; his trial submissions for both conviction and sentence totalled 279 pages (excluding authorities and other attachments); the appeal hearing stretched over 3 days; his submissions for the appeal totalled 221 pages (excluding authorities and other attachments); his written submissions were detailed and well-footnoted; his arguments were persuasive; he explored carefully every aspect of the Prosecution’s case and scrutinised the voluminous evidence in the transcripts in order to mount his client’s defence both at the trial and the appeal with clarity; he analysed the grounds of decision of the trial judge in great detail to submit on areas where the trial judge had erred in her findings; he handled all these matters singlehandedly and had shown much dedication in his pro-bono work for this case.”
On its Facebook page, HOME wrote: “We are incredibly grateful for the dedication Anil has shown in helping Parti prove her innocence. Pro-bono legal representation is hard to come by for many migrant workers, and we appreciate Anil’s efforts in representing Parti both at the trial and appeal.”
However, in a statement on the home page of Red Lion Circle, the firm gave credit back to the rights workers who assist people such as Ms Parti, and asserts that the lawyer “only played a very small part in her acquittal”.
“The bulk of the work was done, and continues to be done by Non-Government Organizations, who toil day and night, weekday and weekend to console, advance and assist for and domestic workers, foreign workers and others who are in distress.
A lawyer may be recognised for and defined by a victory, but never forgets those found guilty due to his ineptitude. There have been and will be many more losses that will define a counsel’s career, but the cause will continue because of the hope provided by the NGOs.
There are many more Parti Liyanis who languish in shelters and our prisons who’s attention we, as a nation, should turn to.
HOME …deserves more or almost all the credit regarding PL’s acquittal.”
In past cases, Mr Anil successfully defended another client, public transport employee Zhang Kun, in an accident case that involved a SMRT bus, in a trial “notable for its length, and complexity which involved mechanical engineering, law of physics, mechanics, and expertise in the area of engine runoff”.
He also “successfully appealed for a reduction in sentence for client a charged with corruption under Prevention of Corruption Act and Criminal Breach of Trust under the Penal Code.” /TISG
Read also: Domestic helper guilty of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman and family