PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal, in a majority decision, has upheld the sedition conviction of the late Karpal Singh, ruling that it was a serious offence involving the sovereignty of a Ruler and his prerogative powers.
The court, however, reduced the quantum of his fine from RM4,000 to RM1,800.
Upon hearing the judgment yesterday, Karpal’s widow, Gurmit Kaur, was in tears and later hugged her five children who were in court.
Her lawyer-son Gobind Singh Deo said they welcomed the decision while another son Ramkarpal Singh said their late father was now no longer disqualified as MP for Bukit Gelugor.
Their mother would now be entitled for the pension and other benefits.
Court of Appeal judge Justice Mohtarudin Baki, in a 2-1 majority decision, ruled that the conviction against the late veteran lawyer was safe.
“I find that the statements by the appellant do not fall under Section 3(2)(a) (of the Sedition Act) as they were far-fetched from only showing that the Ruler has been misled or mistaken in dissolving the State Assembly and to appoint the new Mentri Besar,” he said.
Justice Mohtarudin, who chaired a three-man panel, said the question was how to draw the line in making a statement that was deemed to show that the Ruler had been misled or mistaken in exercising his prerogative power within the limit as provided by the Sedition Act without any seditious tendency.
“The appellant’s continuous and repeated averments that the Ruler has no power and that he is not immune from being taken to court only showed that he had crossed the line between uttering words that are legally permitted and the ones that have seditious tendency,” said Justice Mohtarudin, whose judgment was agreed to by Justice Kamardin Hashim.
In the dissenting judgment, Court of Appeal judge Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat set aside the conviction and acquitted Karpal on grounds that the trial judge had failed to appreciate Karpal’s sworn evidence over his defence.
“The High Court failed to look at the defence of the appellant independently,” she said, adding that Karpal gave evidence under oath over his reason for giving a press conference for public interest, that it was a legal opinion and that Karpal did not question the power of the Sultan of Perak.
Dissenting judge Justice Tengku Maimun said the trial judge’s decision was erroneous as it was made on wrong application of law which could not be sustained.
A petition of appeal was filed on Aug 21, 2014 over Karpal’s conviction for uttering seditious words regarding the Perak royalty in the 2009 Perak Constitution crisis.
Justice Mohtarudin said it was unreasonable for Karpal who was from legal background, especially with vast knowledge in constitutional law, to have come up with such statements.
However, Justice Mohtarudin allowed the appeal against the sentence and fined Karpal RM1,800.
“This is most difficult. We substitute to a fine of RM1,800 in default of two months’ jail. The balance to be refunded,” said Justice Mohtarudin, who said he knew Karpal since he (Justice Mohtarudin) started as a magistrate in Alor Setar in 1978.
A Court of Appeal had on Nov 10, 2014 allowed the widow of the late Karpal Singh to proceed with the appeal against his sedition conviction and the RM4,000 fine imposed by the High Court.
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