PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The appearance at the Federal Court here of two high-profile legal minds has set high expectations of a titanic clash at the sodomy trial of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, taking opposing sides in the ring, had made court appearances together in the past under different situations and this one has all the trappings of an epic encounter.
A worldwide audience are training their eyes and ears on the two men, who are both known for their wit, quick repartee and sharp observations to every little legal detail.
Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, is appearing as Anwar's lead counsel while Muhammad Shafee is the lead prosecutor.
Sri Ram, who retired as a Federal Court judge on Feb 16, 2010, is famous for giving on-the-spot oral judgments and landmark judgments relating to public, contract and industrial laws.
He was a Court of Appeal judge for 15 years before being elevated to the Federal Court in 2009.
Sri Ram has the distinction of being the first lawyer in private practice to be appointed straight to the Court of Appeal when it was set up in 1994. He never served as a judicial commissioner or a High Court judge.
Muhammad Shafee is well-known for his expertise in commercial, drug-trafficking and extradition cases.
Among others, Muhammad Shafee had acted for former land and cooperative development minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam, who was acquitted by the High Court of committing corrupt practice and cheating involving shares belonging to the Sabah Land Development Board in 1996.
Muhammad Shafee has appeared as a counsel for Repco Holdings Bhd over a constitutional issue when Sri Ram was presiding judge in the criminal revision matter in 1997.
Sri Ram held, in Repco's favour, that the only authority constitutionally entitled to conduct prosecutions as public prosecutor is the Attorney-General and not the chairman of the Securities Commission.
Asked what he thought about facing Muhammad Shafee, Sri Ram said: "Nothing."
He said he had appeared against Muhammad Shafee in other civil cases.
"So, it is normal," he added.
Sri Ram said the late Karpal Singh, who was previously Anwar's lead counsel, had laid out a foundation for the case well.