In an unusual move, lawyer M. Ravi was made to foot the bill for an application he filed and later withdrew on behalf of his clients. This is because the High Court felt he had not acted in their best interests.
In his judgment yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye said that, under the Criminal Procedure Code, the court cannot make a cost order on the defence counsel.
However, as Mr Ravi had failed to act as a competent solicitor for his clients - who are facing charges for their alleged involvement in the Dec 8 Little India riot - Mr Tan ruled that he had to bear expenses for the cost order against them.
The amount of $1,000 which the prosecutors had sought from Mr Ravi will thus be obtained from his five clients and the lawyer has to reimburse them.
In April, Mr Ravi had filed an application to quash the criminal charges faced by his clients.
He claimed that the Committee of Inquiry's (COI's) hearing into the riot "offended the rule of sub judice", and had denied the men a fair trial.
The criminal motion was made after he earlier attempted to represent his clients at the COI hearing.
Last month, the application was withdrawn by Mr Ravi, after the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) filed an application to strike out his.
While the AGC also withdrew its application, it asked the High Court to order Mr Ravi to pay $1,000 in costs incurred, for what it called a "vexatious" application not made in good faith.
Mr Tan said he appreciated Mr Ravi's effort in acting pro-bono for the five men. But, in filing an application that had only a vague assertion of sub judice, Mr Ravi was not making a "bona fide" attempt to further the interests of his clients, he added.
Mr Tan also said the affidavit had been signed by only three of the accused who were out on bail. The other two in remand were deprived of their liberties.
Mr Ravi was putting his clients at the risk of having to incur the costs of the application, which itself was "unmeritorious" and "unnecessary", Mr Tan said.
While he declined to give any comments following yesterday's verdict, Mr Ravi said he will consider whether to appeal against the decision.
On Monday, he had told My Paper that he was planning to discharge himself from representing the five men.
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