PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court sentenced lawyer Arunachalam Kasi, better known as Arun Kasi, to 30 days’ jail and fined him RM40,000 after finding him guilty of contempt of court over his two statements criticising the proceedings and decision of a court case.
Justice Tan Sri Ramly Ali, who led a five-member panel, held that Arun Kasi’s contemptuous statements against the Federal Court were serious and tarnished the good name of the judiciary, undermined public confidence in the judiciary, and ridiculed, scandalised and offended the dignity, integrity and impartiality of the court.
“We (the panel) have also considered the Bar’s submission not to impose a custodial sentence.
“However, the gravity of the offence committed by Arun Kasi, coupled with his refusal to tender an unreserved apology, justifies this court taking a serious view of the matter.
“In the circumstances, we are of the view that the appropriate sentence is a term of imprisonment of 30 days from today and a fine of RM40,000 in default 30 days’ jail,” said Justice Ramly yesterday.
The panel, which also consisted of Federal Court judges Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Datuk Rohana Yusuf, Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, had dismissed Arun Kasi’s application for a stay of execution of the ruling.
“We find there is no merit to stay the ruling. Stay is dismissed. Arun Kasi to serve his sentence today,” said Justice Ramly.
Datuk Joy Appukuttan, counsel for Arun Kasi, requested for a stay of execution, saying that he will file the review application against yesterday’s decision.
Attorney General Tommy Thomas argued that this was not a criminal case that needs to get a stay pending an appeal to the next stage.
Arun Kasi, who was standing outside the dock, also asked for a stay and informed the court that he is currently receiving treatment in a hospital and the doctor has given him permission to attend court proceedings and that he has to return to the hospital.
On Feb 27, the Federal Court allowed the Attorney General’s ex-parte application for leave to initiate contempt proceedings against Arun Kasi for allegedly making criticisms in reference to an affidavit of Court of Appeal Judge Dr Abdul Hamid Abu Backer on alleged judicial misconduct, in two articles published on the Aliran online portal on Feb 16 and Feb 22, 2019.
In both the articles, Arun Kasi had allegedly criticised the conduct of the proceedings by the Federal Court and the decision that was delivered on Nov 11, 2018, in the case of PCP Construction vs Leap Modulation.
Justice Ramly said the panel, in imposing the sentence, had carefully considered the submission of the Attorney General and the mitigation by Arun Kasi and his counsel.
“We note that he (Arun Kasi) has expressed his regret if his writing is seen to have undermined public confidence in the Judiciary. But, at the same time, we note that he has not tendered an unreserved apology despite a query from the court,” he said.
Justice Ramly said the case should serve as a reminder. While members of the public are entitled to express their opinion rationally and engage in discussion on the decision of a court, this has to be done within the limits permitted by law.
He also said it is important to emphasise that the jurisdiction of the courts does not exist to protect the dignity of individual judges but serves to protect the Judiciary as the third branch of government.
He added that the panel was not persuaded that Arun Kasi’s statements were authored in the public interest. — Bernama