PUTRAJAYA (Bernama): Almost five years after his death, the Federal Court has acquitted the late Karpal Singh of a sedition charge for allegedly questioning the late Sultan of Perak's action relating to the 2009 constitutional crisis in the state.
A seven-member panel led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim on Friday (March 29) ruled that there was a serious misdirection of law by the High Court and Court of Appeal as both courts failed to evaluate the former DAP national chairman's defence.
“In the circumstances of this case, we are of the view that the failure was a serious misdirection and had occasioned a substantial miscarriage of justice which is not curable under the proviso to Section 92(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act,” she said.
The court had allowed the appeal to set aside Karpal’s conviction and fine of RM1,800.
His widow Gurmit Kaur, 70, acted as a substitute appellant in the appeal.
Justice Zaharah said Karpal gave his defence under oath and the law required it to be considered and evaluated by the trial judge but the judge at the end of the defence case merely relied on the (2012) Court of Appeal judgment.
Justice Zaharah also said that on appeal to the Court of Appeal, the majority of the panel had also failed to consider his defence.
“As pointed out by learned counsel for the appellant, three out of four judges had failed to analyse the defence,” she said.
The other judges on the panel Friday were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah, Tan Sri Ramly Ali, Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin, Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan.
Karpal, who was a prominent lawyer, died on April 17, 2014 in an accident on the North-South Expressway near Gua Tempurung, Perak. He was 74 years old.
He was charged in 2010 for questioning the late Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's action to remove Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as mentri besar in 2009.
The High Court had initially discharged and acquitted Karpal without ordering him to enter his defence in 2010 but on appeal by the prosecution, the Court of Appeal in 2012 ordered him to enter his defence.
In 2014, the High Court convicted and fined him RM4,000. In 2016, the Court of Appeal, by a 2-1 majority decision, upheld his conviction but reduced the fine to RM1,800.
Following the Court of Appeal's decision to reduce the fine, Gurmit, who is the administrator of her late husband's estate, could get his pension and other benefits accorded to an elected representative.
After the court's decision, Gurmit, who was in tears, said, “I was just preparing for his fifth anniversary and I know now he is going to rest in peace. He always defended himself.”
Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh told reporters that after 10 years, finally his father had been vindicated.
“It is important to recognise that at the end of the day, what he did back in 2009 as far he was concerned was something he needed to do as a Member of Parliament in his official capacity as representative of the people. He said it was certainly nothing personal,” he said. – Bernama