JUSTICE: If you’re nobody, you are punished; if you’re somebody, you are tolerated!, says P Ramakrishnan

We turn to the courts for justice but when a simple court procedure mocks justice, how is justice served?

A retired civil servant was arrested for violating the Movement Control Order (MCO) on Monday (20-4-2020).  He was to be charged the next day, Tuesday (21-4-2020).

We don’t know his age or why he was out on that day.

He arrived as early as 8.45 in the morning to be charged but his proceedings did not start until 4.15 in the afternoon. The poor man had to wait 7 ½ hours before his case came up rather late towards evening.

He pleaded not guilty and the Magistrate, Nur Farahain Roslan, granted bail of RM1,500 with one surety.

So far so good!

But a problem cropped up when it came to posting the bail. At this point in time, all the banks authorized to process bail applications had already closed for the day.

According to his lawyer, Tay Yi Kuan, the Maybank branch at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex, which is authorized to process bail applications, was closed during the MCO.  As such, lawyers and family members of the accused would need to go to the only other authorized bank branch at Sri Hartamas. But that bank branch, it seems, closes around 2pm on weekdays during the MCO.

That was not the only problem.

Even the KL Court Complex’ bail counter closed at around 4pm. Thus, another avenue at the court premises was also not available when bail was granted.

According to the lawyer, “At about 3.15pm, I also found out that the e-jamin facility at the bail counter was not working.” This facility allows a bailor to make online payment to the court within minutes. The accused’s son was the bailor and was present in court.

In other words, the bailor who was the pensioner’s son was there with cash and he was in a position to make payment immediately but all the facilities to enable payment were not available to him. Thus, he could not post bail through no fault of his own.

All these facts – except the fact that the e-jamin facility at the bail counter was not working – were made known and the lawyer applied to the magistrate if the bail could be posted the next day because of the extenuating circumstances. The magistrate did not allow the application resulting in the retiree being remanded overnight at the Sungai Buloh Prison.

The court ruling reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s wise words, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” Lincoln himself was a lawyer.

The bail was posted the next day and the accused was released.

Even though the accused was released the next morning when the bail was paid, the courts should have rightly taken note of the difficulty and the problems faced by the accused in posting bail that day when it was granted. Not only the MCO was a contributing factor to the difficulty in posting bail but the court itself was responsible for this situation when the accused’s case was called late in the day at 4.15 pm, thus making it difficult for him to post bail.

The salient and sore point is this: How can the court not recognize the fact that the MCO had made things difficult for this pensioner to post bail and the court itself had contributed to this problem when his case was called late in the day.

All this was beyond the pensioner’s control. That deserved to be considered sympathetically in the interest of justice. This was a situation where compassion was necessary. But the court seemed cold-hearted! It was incredulously indifferent to the situation when mercy was crying out for justice!

We wondered what happened to the famous Lady of Justice. Was she on leave or had she fled the court? Wasn’t she supposed to represent and symbolize justice, fairness, compassion, mercy, etc. without considering the status of the person – that is why she is blind-folded!

We regret that there was no judicial discretion to reflect the noble qualities of justice. When it is said that justice was blind it was not meant to be blind to the extenuating circumstances but was meant to be absolutely just and fair.

What makes this injustice even more upsetting and glaring is the fact that on 22 September 2018 Najib Razak the former PM was not only allowed to pay his bail the next day but he was also permitted to pay in instalments and to complete his bail payment within one week. Of course, Najib was no insignificant pensioner! Therefore, he did not spend the night in prison unlike this unfortunate pensioner!

Surely it must be known that the dispensers of justice are allowed to use their discretion when arriving at an administrative decision. They are expected to be judicious in their decision.

The pensioner’s case was not a serious one and the maximum fine was only RM1,000 whereas Najib’s case was criminal and serious and his bail alone imposed by the Sessions Court was RM3.5 million!

This is not the end of the sordid story.

See, how fast the pensioner was arrested and charged! Arrested on Monday and charged on the very next day. How come this efficiency was not reflected in the cases when elite politicians are concerned?

According to the Malay Mail report, Deputy Health Minister I Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Perak exco Razman Zakaria and their entourage were apparently distributing provisions and eating together with a group of people at a tahfiz institution in Lenggong on 17 April 2020, Perak in violation of the MCO.

Prior to this, it was also reported that Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar went to visit his predecessor Datuk Seri Ahmad Said on 17 April 2020 at his house in violation of MCO.

The only difference between the poor pensioner’s case and those involving politicians is that the pensioner was nobody whereas the others were somebody! These important politicians are yet to be charged.*

According to Joseph Addision, “Justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is always, therefore, represented as blind.”

Really?!!!

25 April 2020

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

*Editor’s update: The deputy health minister and Perak council member were fined RM,1000 each, on 28 April, but the Terengganu MB escaped scot-free. Some justice that!
All the politicians should have had a more severe punishment as they are meant to uphold the law, not break them with impunity because they know the law as it is in Malaysia, favours them.
Politicians are supposed to set a good example, not rub it in our faces, that they can break the law.

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