Anwar's lead counsel sets up own law firm

Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram

KUALA LUMPUR - Former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who caused a stir when he acted as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's lead counsel, has set up his own law firm to avoid any conflict of interest.

Sri Ram denied claims that his new firm came about because he was pressured to quit Soo Thien Ming & Nashra where he acted as a consultant, after he represented the Opposition Leader in his appeal against conviction on a sodomy charge.

"I was not asked to leave or pressured to leave. Soo Thien Ming and I are good friends.

"We mutually agreed that we part company," Sri Ram, who is now abroad, said when contacted.

Sri Ram, 71, is well-known for giving on-the-spot oral judgments and landmark judgments relating to public, contract and industrial law.

He was a Court of Appeal judge for 15 years before being elevated to the Federal Court in 2009.

He 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.

Asked for the reason for setting up his own firm last month, Sri Ram said: "I wish to be free to do the kind of work I want without giving rise to any conflict of interest."

A check with the Malaysian Bar's website showed that the firm was registered as SRI RAM and based at Wisma Selangor Dredging in Jalan Ampang here.

It showed that the firm only had Sri Ram and another counsel David Yii Hee Kiet as practising lawyers.

The Federal Court reserved judgment in November last year after hearing submissions for eight days. Anwar's 15-man defence team was led by Sri Ram.

Sri Ram also recently commented that retired judges might have to appear as counsel in exceptional cases like election and constitutional cases.

Their appearance would be necessary due to their experience and expertise, he said.