Counsel says contempt order on Shankar is unprecedented

From left .. Wong, Shankar and Liew

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KUCHING, Jan 29: Legal co-counsel of senior counsel Shankar Ram Asnani, Wong King Wei has described the contempt of court order on Shankar as unprecedented in nature as such order is never meted out for delay in filing ‘bundle’ of documents.

Shankar has filed appeals to the Court of Appeal and the matter will be heard on an urgent basis on Feb 24, 2021, because the case of Dr Sim was dismissed without hearing the merits and Dr Sim’s counsel Shankar was cited for contempt without prior notice of such proceedings.

He said contempt proceedings are only used when there are serious offences such as wrongful behaviour during court proceedings.

Wong was baffled by the fact that Shankar who is well known in the legal fraternity for being one of the fastest lawyers should get cited for contempt.  Wong believed that the decision will affect the whole legal profession throughout Malaysia.

The High Court on Jan 12, 2021, dismissed the case of Datuk Seri Dr Sim with RM30,000 costs and found Shankar to be in contempt because of a mere one month late in filing ‘bundle’ of documents but did not raise any issue with the defendant Chong Chieng Jen and his counsel Michael Kong who did not comply with some of the court’s directions.

“But for Shankar’s case, there was not even any real delay in filing the documents which were filed but slightly late because it is connected with a second case involving Michael Kong.

“If we look at the notes of proceedings, there was no quarrel between the bench and the bar. The bench inquired about the delay and which Mr Shankar properly explained.

“All was done in a gentle way and in a courteous manner by Counsel Shankar who explained politely to the Court the reasons Dr Sim’s trial ‘bundles’ were filed to incorporate all the other documents from the second case concerning Michael Kong.

“But regrettably, he (Shankar) was cited for contempt of court, without prior warning or notice,” Wong told reporters outside the court here today.

Wong argued that, since the trial between Dr Sim and Chong is scheduled on March 1, 2021, it is in the interest of justice and all Sarawakians for the case to be decided on the merits.

“The case should be decided on the merits and this matter is now pursued in the Appeals,” he said.

Wong came in today as counsel for Shankar who has been cited for contempt while performing his duty as counsel in the Court.

Wong said, “This raises my concern as well as all other the litigation lawyers, who is now been made a high-risk profession following the said Order”.

Wong was of the opinion that if Shankar could be cited for contempt of court for “late” submission of documents, that would have made the legal profession a very risky profession as a contempt of court means one could face imprisonment for the slightest reasons.

As such Wong who is also an independent assemblyman of Padungan constituency said, to uphold justice, it is best to leave the matter to the court to decide on the merits.

Commenting on the issue, Shankar said, “One should always respect the courts” but he explained that the decision is wrong in law and there was no real delay or prejudice in submitting the documents for Dr Sim, which were all filed to bring in the documents of the second case concerning Michael Kong.

Shankar added that he has lodged appeals against the decision of the court on Jan 12, 2021, and because the rights of lawyers are protected under Articles 5 and 8 of the Federal Constitution and all lawyers must act without fear or favour and in the best interest of their clients.

Shankar who is representing Dr Sim Kui Hian on a pro bono basis and because he is of the view that there are merits to be investigated at the trial.

As Shankar is the legal counsel for Dr Sim in the Dr Sim vs Chong Chieng Jen’s case (over alleged defamatory posts made by Chong against Dr Sim on the Sarawak Government food aid allocation during the MCO) as well as for Dr Sim vs Michael Kong case (also over the food aid during MCO), he believed that he needed to include all documents involving Dr Sim vs Michael Kong when filing in documents Dr Sim vs Chong case.

“So, please view this objectively,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) Kuching Branch vice-chairman Liew Tang Chieh said, his presence in court today was holding a watching brief as Shankar is one of its members.

Liew mentioned the case of PP v Karpal Singh to invite the Court to allow the Association to hold a watching brief as the case concerns the Legal Profession in Sarawak.

The next court case management will be held on Feb 3, 2021. -DayakDaily