Statutory Declaration back in the spotlight

PETALING JAYA: The political drama of making Statutory Declaration (SD) to implicate someone of wrongdoing is making a comeback after it first came into the spotlight during the 90s in cases involving then sacked deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The most recent and prominent SDs emerged last month when former PKR researcher Muhammad Yusoff Rawther alleged that Anwar had outraged his modesty on Oct 2 last year.

He filed an SD on his claim in November, and subsequently lodged a police report on Dec 7.

Another recent case involved former police commando Azilah Hadri, who filed an SD in October claiming former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave him the order to kill Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Malaysian Bar president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said SDs are more than just a written statement.

“A Statutory Declaration is commonly used to allow a person to declare something to be true for legal requirement when no other evidence is available.

“An SD is not the same as an affidavit although they have similar purposes. An affidavit is made and used as evidence in court proceedings. An SD is a standalone, not necessarily used in court. It can be tendered in court but the court will evaluate its content, ” he said in an interview.

Noting that SDs could be made for civil or criminal cases, Fareed said that making false SDs is similar to making a false statement and one can be charged for perjury under Sections 199 and 200 of the Penal Code.

Former Bar Council Constitutio-nal Law Committee co-chairperson and litigation lawyer Surendra Ananth concurred, saying that knowingly stating anything that is false in an SD is a criminal offence.

“It carries a much heavier weight than a regular statement or representation in other documents as it comes with criminal implication.

“If someone makes an SD and subsequently, new facts which were not previously known to the person comes to light, then the person should make a new SD to correct the earlier one, ” he said.

Since an SD has to be made by a person with a sound mind before a Sessions Court judge, Magistrate, Commissioner of Oaths or notary public, making a false SD is akin to giving false evidence, said litigation lawyer John Chan.

“It is punishable under Sections 199 and 200 of the Penal Code. A person who gives false evidence for the purpose of being used in court can be punished with up to seven years’ jail.

Since SDs became legal documents and governed under the Statutory Declaration Act 1960, a person who gives false evidence could also face action for criminal offences under the same Act, ” he said, adding that SDs cannot be revoked.

Although a person may make subsequent SDs to rectify or clarify the initial SD, Chan noted that making too many SDs on a particular subject might affect a person’s credibility and invite criticism on his or her motives.

When asked about the many SDs made by politicians and individuals of late, Surendra said there is nothing wrong in law with giving too many SDs.

“However, if it concerns something that is pending in court, it could amount to contempt if it is aimed at influencing or undermining the court proceeding, ” he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on Azilah Hadri’s SD, criminalogist Datuk Akhbar Satar said the chances of locating those named in his SD were good since they are members of the authorities.

“Since most of the witnesses in this murder case are from Malaysia, it is possible to locate them unless they have migrated or passed away, ” he said.

It is also wise for the authorities to look at the SDs of both Azilah and Muhammed Yusoff Rawther to confirm the veracity of the facts, he said.

“SDs could be used to assist in criminal investigations as the strength of the SD depends on the veracity of the facts.

“Both SDs should be checked for facts and discrepancies and police should compare any discrepancies with the evidence they have gathered, ” Akhbar said.

If there is information in the SDs, which is material to the respective cases, then a further probe is needed to verify the truth with any new supported evidence either from oral or documentary evidence, he added.

“New information in the SD can be used to assist in the investigation to collect new evidence or leads and to prove if there is any truth in the content of the SDs, ” he said.

Akhbar also said that investigations into the SD should be done professionally without fear or favour, regardless if there are opinions that they could be politically motivated.

“It is not a question of whether they were politically motivated. It is a question about conducting the investigations fast, professionally and without fear or favour, ” he said.

However, Akhbar agreed that SDs without strong evidence and produced out of coercion, corruption, or political motivation were a waste of the police’s time, besides being an unlawful and dishonest act.

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