Kuching High Court denies AAS application to hold watching brief over contempt of court case

AAS representatives at the Kuching High Court today (Feb 2, 2021). From left: Liew Tang Chieh, Sarbjit Singh Khaira, Desmond Sahathevan and Dayangku Sa’adiah Awang Hipni.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Feb 3: The High Court today disallowed an application by Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) to hold a watching brief on the hearing for senior counsel Shankar Ram Asnani for contempt of court.

On Jan 12, 2021, Shankar who was representing Local Housing and Government Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian in a defamation case against Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen, was cited for contempt of court for being late in filling documents.

In view of the severity of the case, AAS’ Central Committee had appointed Sarbjit Singh Khaira and his team consisting of Liew Tang Chieh and Dayangku Sa’adiah Awang Hipni to hold a watching brief for the case as Shankar is one of its members.

AAS is recognised as a stakeholder representing the interests of advocates in Sarawak. It was submitted that AAS has the duty to be concerned with the conduct of its member i.e Shankar who was found to have committed prima facie contempt in the face of the Court.

“Following the principle in Public Prosecutor v Karpal Singh, AAS submits that the issues and the circumstances in which Mr Shankar was found to have committed prima facie contempt in the face of the Court affect all advocates and the profession as a whole,” AAS said in its submission.

AAS asserted that it will be in a more informed position to advise its members on the outcome of this matter if the Honourable Court were to allow AAS’s application to hold a watching brief on behalf of all AAS members.

“AAS will not express any views and/or comments and/or take any stance while holding the watching brief at the hearing of the said contempt proceedings.” said AAS in its submission.

On Jan 12, 2021, apart from holding Shankar in contempt of court, the High Court also dismissed Dr Sim’s legal action against Chong with RM30,000 costs.

Following the judgment, Shankar has filed appeals to the Court of Appeal. The case will be heard on an urgent basis on Feb 24, 2021 as the case was dismissed without hearing merits and Shankar was cited for contempt without prior notice of such proceedings. — DayakDaily