Prosecution defends SRC trial judge branded 'incompetent' by Najib's lawyers

PUTRAJAYA: The prosecution in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case has defended the trial judge's grounds of judgment that led to the conviction of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which it said came “under attack” by the defence.

Ad hoc prosecutor Datuk Seri V. Sithambaram told a three-man panel at the Court of Appeal that the defence, led by counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, had made serious allegations against High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

He said the defence had, both inside and outside of court, submitted and commented that the judge was biased, saying that the judge was the "second prosecutor in the case" and "hopelessly incompetent".

Sithambaram, who was reading from his written submission, diverted for a moment from his prepared text during the morning session of the SRC appeal hearing here on Thursday (April 22) to make a point on the "attacks" against the judge and the grounds of judgment.

"This submission is made to save the integrity of his grounds of judgment – and in a wider context – to ensure that the due administration of justice is not in any way tainted," Sithambaram said.

Sithambaram said the defence contended that the grounds of judgment were not in accordance with the law because after an oral ruling, the judge, in his final grounds of judgment, could not add anything on the prima facie finding that was not already included in the earlier ruling.

The prosecution, however, rebutted this, submitting that it was legally incorrect to say that the prosecution's case was limited to the prima facie findings of the trial judge.

In the written submission, Sithambaram said Section 182A of the Criminal Procedure Code stated that the court must consider all evidence presented before it at the conclusion of the trial in order to decide whether the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and not only the prima facie findings of the trial judge, as contended by the defence.

"According to the defence, this (additional grounds of judgment) is illegal.

"But the law as it stands, shows the judge has every right, after giving an oral ruling, to add further grounds in his findings of his prima facie case. That is not illegal," Sithambaram said.

He said that the prosecution must defend the judgment or it would "not have a leg to stand on" if otherwise.

"I'm not here to support the judge per se but if the judgment is attacked, then the judge is attacked," he added.

On April 6, Shafee, in his submission, had described Justice Mohd Nazlan as "hopelessly incompetent" and that the trial judge had "poisoned" his own grounds of judgment by adding elements that were previously not there in his decision.

On July 28 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced Najib to 10 years' jail on each of the three counts of criminal breach of trust as well as each of the three counts of money laundering.

Najib, 68, is currently out on bail of RM2mil in two sureties pending appeal.

The appeal hearing continues this afternoon before a three-man panel chaired by Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil.

Other judges on the panel are Justices Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

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