Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The IGP Must Recognise, Respect and Uphold the Rights and Obligations of Members of the Malaysian Bar


PRESS RELEASE 

The Malaysian Bar is shocked by the comments attributed to the Inspector General of Police (“IGP”) concerning Americk Singh Sidhu, a Member of the Malaysian Bar, in various press reports.

It has been reported that Americk Singh Sidhu was retained by Charles Morais, a brother of the late Deputy Public Prosecutor Kevin Morais, to prepare a statutory declaration (“SD”) on,inter alia, events leading to, and subsequent to, Kevin Morais’s death. 

The disparaging remarks reportedly made by the IGP against Americk Singh Sidhu (“…bad reputation when it came to SDs…” and “not the first time Americk’s client had disappeared after making an SD”) are unjustified and unbecoming of the office of the IGP.  Instead of launching into this tirade of abuse, the IGP and the police should focus on investigating the veracity of the SD. 

The apparent trend of targeting lawyers, such as in the recent case of Matthias Chang, is unacceptable.  It bears reiteration that “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions” (see Article 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990).
 
It is also perplexing that the IGP appears to be indifferent to the rights and obligations of an advocate and solicitor representing a client under the Legal Profession Act 1976 and the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978.  The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice.  It must not be curtailed by acts of police intimidation, harassment or victimisation.  The IGP’s reported statements are a serious violation of this independence, and an affront to the administration of justice.

The IGP must respect the principle of solicitor-client privilege, which is also critical to the administration of justice.  The limited exceptions to this principle are codified in Section 126 of the Evidence Act 1950, namely, where there is “(a) any such communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose; (b) any fact observed by any advocate in the course of his employment as such showing that any crime or fraud has been committed since the commencement of his employment”.  Unless these exceptions apply, any attempt to ignore or circumvent solicitor-client privilege is reprehensible and must be condemned. 

The Malaysian Bar urges the IGP to recognise, respect and uphold the rights and obligations of advocates and solicitors to discharge their professional responsibilities without obstruction or impediment. 

Steven Thiru
President
Malaysian Bar

1 December 2015

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