PUTRAJAYA: Senior lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pic) had to remove his barrister's robe in court Monday after being reminded by the Court of Appeal here that lawyers are not allowed to wear robes when representing themselves.
Muhammad Shafee was acting for himself in his appeal against an RM5,000 fine issued by the Bar Council's Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board.
In the legal tradition, lawyers defending themselves in a case are not allowed to wear their robes in court.
During proceedings on Monday, Justice Mah Weng Kwai hinted at the rule, saying "So you are wearing a robe and are representing yourself today?"
Realising his mistake, Muhammad Shafee disrobed and continued his submissions.
Muhammad Shafee argued that in fining him, the Bar Council was practising selective prosecution.
He also asked if Justice Mah would be comfortable being in the panel, due to the Justice's previous posts as Bar Council chairman and as a member of its disciplinary board.
"While I am confident of the Justice's impartiality, I ask he consider recusing himself from hearing the matter," said Muhammad Shafee.
Justice Mah agreed to recuse himself, citing he did so in "an abundance of caution".
Panel chairman Justice Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof adjourned the case to another day, to be heard before a panel not including Justice Mah.
The Court of Appeal registrar later fixed Oct 14 for hearing.
On Jan 10, the High Court dismissed Muhammad Shafee's appeal to reverse a decision by the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board, which fined him for misconduct in his professional capacity.
High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Zaleha Yusof held that the court should not interfere with the decision of the Bar Council.
The board had on Oct 5, 2012 fined Muhammad Shafee RM5,000 for publicising himself and his firm in a manner that infringed on rules of publicity for lawyers.
The disciplinary action followed a complaint by then-Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan based on an interview given by Muhammad Shafee in two articles that appeared in The Star on Sept 27, 2009.