KUALA LUMPUR: The bribery trial of former enforcement chief of the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council, Kapt (Rtd) Abdul Kudus Ahmad, proceeded for three hours yesterday when his lawyer suddenly applied to have the trial judge disqualified.
In making his verbal application, counsel M. Manoharan cited, among others, grounds such as Sessions judge Nor Afizah Hanum Mokhtar had not stood down the proceedings before abruptly leaving the court earlier and slamming the door shut, and kept repeating the word Next while he was making a point during submission.
He also described the judge's conduct as very disappointing and raised the question over the conduct that could give rise to ample likelihood of bias.
Manoharan made the application at 11.40am when the judge resumed hearing after having stormed into her chambers and slamming the door behind her 25 minutes earlier.
She had left her seat without first adjourning the trial while Manoharan and lead DPP Nordin Hassan were arguing a point.
At that juncture, Manoharan accused Nordin of leading the prosecutions second witness S. Vijayaletchumy by telling her to open a particular page of her brothers restaurant sales book.
Vijayaletchumy, 25, was testifying in the trial of Abdul Kudus who was charged with 24 counts of accepting bribes amounting to RM59,000.
Abdul Kudus, 40, is accused of accepting bribes ranging between RM1,000 and RM12,000 on several occasions from Vijayaletchumys brother and restaurant owner Steven @ S. Sathiasilan at various locations here and in Selangor between May 2001 and May this year.
The money is said to have been given to Abdul Kudus as an inducement to withdraw the notice of licence cancellation and closure of business and not to take action against Sathiasilan for placing chairs and tables on the road in front of his restaurant.
Nordin, who was assisted by Idham Abd Ghani, denied having led the witness to adduce evidence saying that he had only referred the witness to the page and that Manoharan had objected before he had even asked a single question.
Nor Afizah, on her return to the proceedings, said she did not appreciate both parties arguing and bickering before her.
That is not making submissions. This is a court case in a court of justice. Justice does not mean justice only to the accused or the prosecution. It means justice to all, she said, while urging all parties not to treat the proceedings like a circus.
When objecting to the application, Nordin said the judge had the right to stop the trial in order to control the courtroom situation.
Manoharans co-counsel A. Sri Murugan, in reply, said the defence was not alleging the judge was bias but rather concerned about her losing her temper and temporarily abandoning the trial, which might give rise to public perceptions that there was a likelihood of bias to the defence if she were to continue to hear the case.
Nor Afizah fixed today for both parties to produce authorities on the type of conduct that would give rise to the likelihood of bias.
Earlier, the prosecutions first witness Norlela Kamsi, a 42-year-old administrative officer of MPAJ, told the court that Abdul Kudus had joined the council as an enforcement officer in January 2001 with a salary of RM1,227.10.
By the time he was sacked in June, he was earning RM2,099.01 a month.