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Where is justice?

After having been told that his words were harsh by the judge, Shafee did not show any remorse

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If a lay person is puzzled and confused with the judiciary, that is perfectly understandable. Many could not understand how Malaysiakini could be convicted of contempt of court when it did not appear to disparage the judiciary. After all, the judiciary has not managed to restore public confidence.

In this contempt of court case, the judiciary landed on Malaysiakini like a ton of bricks in finding Malaysiakini guilty. It was so outraged seemingly that it found it necessary to ignore the already hefty RM200,000 fine recommended by the attorney general and instead imposed a draconian punishment – a fine which was 150% more as a drastic punishment – of a mind-boggling half-a-million ringgit!

To many, the judiciary was apparently so upset; it was so angry it was disparaged, it could not contain itself. As a result, it was driven to inflict a punishment that was so severe, to drive home the fact that the judiciary would not brook any nonsense. A half-a-million-ringgit fine was imposed on Malaysiakini, which did not in any way knowingly disparage the judiciary.

Two lay persons were carried away and criticised the judiciary unsparingly when they posted their comments on Malaysiakini. But Malaysiakini, to its credit, removed the offending remarks as soon as it became aware of it. The fact that Malaysiakini had acted responsibly and immediately did not cut ice with the judiciary.

Now compare this with what had happened within the precincts of the court in the presence of three judges in the Court of Appeal.

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, the senior counsel for Najib Razak concerning the RM42m corruption case, referred to the High Court Judge, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali who convicted Najib, in caustic terms. He called him incompetent and labelled his judgment as poisoned. He disparaged him outrageously.

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Here are some examples of his open criticism in court:

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All the above remarks and comments have thoroughly scandalised the judge.

If you compare the incident involving Malaysiakini and what was uttered in the court without mincing any words, you would tend to dismiss Malaysiakini’s infraction as a minor oversight. But Shafee’s opinion of the judge and his judgment, without any doubt, constituted contempt of court. How come the judiciary did not act with the same degree of indignation in this instance?

Is there a special privilege for the legal fraternity to be free with its words and opinion of the judiciary, however belittling, as compared to the lay person’s right to express similar sentiments about the judiciary? To many, this may appear to be a clear case of double standards.

Why hasn’t the attorney general sprung into action? After all, Shafee’s disparaging remarks and opinions were published in print? Malaysiakini also carried this. How come in this instance Malaysiakini is not in contempt of court?

After having been told that his words were harsh by the judge, Shafee did not show any remorse. He did not apologise. He did not withdraw the offending remarks. In any case, there were no such reports.

We are persuaded by the glaring differences in treatment and the appearance of double standards to ask, “Where is justice?”

“True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.” – Jonathan Sacks

Law is not law, if it violates the principles of eternal justice. – Lydia Maria Child

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