Law expert Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar Gurdial said that using an SD in a civil suit or a criminal case to prove innocence is not something new and is often used.
However, a false SD as a lie in court could result in fines or imprisonment.
He further said that as long as an SD filed in court is discussed by the public without being contemptuous of the court or defaming anyone, and in the interest of the public, no one can be held in contempt of court.
“An SD is governed by the Statutory Declaration Act 1960 and one can be charged under the laws for making a false SD. Also, if one were to state lies in court, he or she would be charged with perjury. As for the media, it has the defence of duty to the public when it exposes such SDs.
“An SD produces facts which are written in front of a commissioner of oaths and an SD stands on its own and carries weight when filed in court. It is a different colouring to the affidavit filed in court. An affidavit, on the other hand, is to state facts only to be used in courts to refute the facts of the other party,” said Gurdial, also human rights NGO Hakam president.
(Under the Penal Law, for a false SD, a person who makes a false declaration, which is received by any court as evidence of any fact, could be charged and convicted for giving false evidence under Section 199 of the Penal Code. For perjury in court, one can be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to seven years, and shall be liable to fine.)
Two SDs are in the spotlight and caught public attention because they involved two towering personalities in the political arena.
One was the SD filed by Yusof Rawther, an aide of PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, alleging that he was sexually harassed by the latter last year.
Anwar had said the SD was defamatory and is filing a civil suit.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had his name dragged into an SD by convicted killer Azilah Hadri.
In his SD, Azilah alleged that the former prime minister instructed him to “shoot to kill” Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006.
Former chief inspector Azilah, who is in the gallows, had filed the SD in his bid for a retrial in an open court. He was convicted along with another police commando Kpl Sirul Azhar.
Najib had also rubbished the SD.
The importance of thorough investigations by the police and through the judicial process, said Gurdial, is vital to ensure the truth in the SDs.
Gurdial cited the case of former Singaporean MP B. Jeyaretnam who was imprisoned over a false SD.
“The law here is the same as in Singapore,” said Gurdial.
He also pointed out the case of the killing of former beauty queen Jean Perera Sinappa whose brother-in-law was convicted of her murder with the testimony of a relative.
The relative however later said he had perjured and the conviction was overturned.
Patriot president Brig-Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji said that as the two SDs alleged crimes by public figures, it is important that the authorities expedite investigations to ascertain the allegations.
“Those accused in the SDs – Najib and Anwar – are both leaders of the country. One is a former prime minister and the other, a future prime minister. If the SDs are true, then it is shameful they are still elected leaders.
“Our legal system takes a long time with such cases but as these are leaders, the authorities should take serious interest and expedite investigations for it paints us badly as a country too when we have allegations like these in SDs in public,” said Arshad.
Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel said Azilah’s SD warrants investigation papers to be reopened.
“The truth behind who really ordered the killing can be resolved once and for all.
“We recommend a stronger and more independent probe over this matter. It has been 13 years of waiting to uncover the truth behind the real motive behind Altantuya’s death,” said Gabriel.