Lawyer M. Ravi has found himself on the wrong end of an unprecedented High Court ruling.
He was yesterday ordered to bear the prosecution's costs over an application he made to quash charges against five men implicated in the Dec 8 Little India riot.
The court had found the application was devoid of merit.
This is the first time that a lawyer has been ordered to personally pay costs in a criminal case.
Mr Ravi had filed a criminal motion on April 2, asking for the Little India riot charges to be quashed.
He argued that the Committee of Inquiry into the riot, that had closed seven days earlier, had breached the sub judice rule, denied the five men a fair trial and was in contempt of court.
After the prosecution filed an application to have Mr Ravi's motion struck out, he said he would withdraw his.
The prosecution then withdrew its application but wanted him to personally pay its costs of S$1,000 - the first time it has made such a demand against a lawyer.
It argued his unreasonable and negligent conduct caused it to incur the unnecessary costs.
Unlike in civil suits, where the losing party usually pays costs to the winning side, it is rare for the courts to order costs in criminal proceedings.
A news report yesterday said Mr Ravi was discharging himself from representing the five men.
He reportedly told My Paper that his resources were limited for pro bono cases as he is working alone, and his clients' access to justice will be better served by lawyers from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.
Yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Tan Siong Thye ordered the five - Arun Kaliamurthy, Rajendran Mohan, Ravi Arun Vengatesh, Selvanathan Murugaeson, and Periyaiah Ganesan - to pay the prosecution's cost for the criminal motion.
He relied on a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that if the High Court dismisses a criminal motion and is of the opinion that it was frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of process, the court can order the applicant to pay costs to the other side. He said the current application fell into this category of cases as it was "clearly devoid of merit".
He noted the court has no power to quash the charges at such an early stage; the power to drop the charges was at the discretion of the Attorney-General, he said.
However, the judicial commissioner also ruled that Mr Ravi had to reimburse his five clients as he had conducted himself unreasonably as a lawyer.
Under another CPC provision, a lawyer can be held liable for costs ordered against his client if they were incurred by his failure to act with competence and expedition.
Mr Ravi said later he will consider whether to appeal.
This article was first published on JUNE 25, 2014.
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