Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trial for Insulting Judge

Last week, in between sessions for a course I am attending at the Supreme Court, I sat through a few hours of the trial of Gopalan Nair in Court 5C of the High Court.

Nair was charged under Section 228 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224), which reads as follows:

"Whoever intentionally offers any insult or causes any interruption to any public servant, while such public servant is sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to $5,000, or with both."

According to Nair's blog, the charge read:

"Gopalan Nair are charged that you on or about May 29, 2008 in Singapore, did intentionally offer an insult to a public servant namely Justice Belinda Ang Saw Een, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore while the Judge was sitting in judicial proceedings namely Notice of Assessment No. 23 of 2008 in Suit No. 261 of 2006 and Notice of Assessment No. 24 of 2008 in Suit No. 262 of 2006 by posting the following words on your blog at

"The following transpired during the last 3 days in court. The judge Belinda Ang was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders"

and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 228 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224)."

Unfortunately, he was sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment yesterday. I came away with some impressions of the trial. Since the trial is over, I can now share these impressions.


Looking at the charge and legislation and having watched the trial, I think Nair could have put up a more credible defence.

Nair was given a lot of leeway in cross-examining the prosecution witness, Assistant Superintendent of Police Razak Jakaria. Nair adopted various strategies to discredit the witness, even calling into question the religious beliefs of the witness. The month of Ramadan being an important period for Muslim persons, I thought this was insensitive of Nair to do so.

I hope ASP Razak will find the capacity in him to be forgiving of Nair, since the month of Ramadan is also about being forgiving to those who offend us. I think Nair was caught up by the heat of the charge and ended up taking such desperate measures in order to secure an acquittal.

Nair also brought up irrelevant matters. At one point, he argued that he needed to question the witness and make detailed notes about the answers so that this could eventually go into a book. He disclosed that he intends to write about his personal experience of the justice system in Singapore.

As much as I look forward to reading Nair's book, I thought this was an important lesson as to why a person should not conduct his own defence. If you are charged for committing a criminal offence in Singapore, please seriously consider getting a criminal lawyer to represent you, especially if you can afford one. I am not sure if Nair can afford to appoint a defence lawyer.


A lot of the irrelevant questions arose from the fact that Nair had to work blindly. The prosecution had not disclosed all the statements Nair had made to the police and this ended up with Nair conducting a fishing expedition for such information at trial. It was well into the trial that Nair was given a set of such statements by the prosecution.

I cannot appreciate why the prosecution cannot disclose all such statements as soon as a person is charged, since there is no risk of such disclosure jeopardising the investigation at that point. It is possible that early disclosure of the statements may help facilitate and speed up the trial process and reduce the need for a defendant to undertake such fishing expeditions at trial.


The judge hearing the trial, Justice Kan Ting Chiu, left the most significant impression on me. I thought he was extremely patient with both the prosecution and defence. He was decorum and graciousness at its best. At one point, he even went through his notes of evidence and encouraged the prosecution to do the same in order to clarify something Nair could not remember.

Some trainee lawyers hearing the matter thought Nair deserved to be dealt with strongly by the force of law, and be made an example of by being put away longer than was necessary in such cases.

Thankfully, the judge hearing the matter has a less draconian concept of justice. The voice of reason prevailed and he eventually dealt with Nair fairly. The judge was also understanding enough to give Nair some time to settle his personal matters before commencing the prison sentence.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?


Anonymous said...

hehe - I am not a lawyer and I don;t understand this. Tang of the kidney case lied on oath, and was out in 2 hours. This poor chap made a comment on the local judiciary, and spent 3 months in jail. woah....
Another man was found to have terminal cancer and was jailed even when court was told he had cancer.
Justice is blind? or do they smell money and justice goes to those with money to appeal. I wonder - can Walter Woon come in to protect the chap with terminal cancer?

Anonymous said...

Nair should consult IBA. The major publications like AWSJ, The Economist, FEER have all been sued and they have also lost. It is time all legal suits involving the PAP govt be brought to the attention of the world court.
The Singapore govt and its judiciary needs to be enlightened by worldclass opinion.

Anonymous said...

Pious people have no problems with having their faith tested, it is those of weak disposition who would take issue. There is little correlation to how questioning one's religious beliefs during a holy month is insensitive.

Nair's defense sounds poor, and discrediting the witness along religious lines strikes me as ineffectual more than insensitive. Everything is fair game in court, but since Nair lost, we can assume ostensibly that his defense was poorly crafted.

I'm pretty sure Nair can afford a lawyer, he most probably represented himself as source material for his book. No doubt he was operating with the assumption that he was going to lose anyway.

Anonymous said...

I think Nair has just succeeded in demonstrating how insecure the current Singapore leadership is...

They have to send someone to jail for three months for making a comment not different from the comments from the international judicial organisation praised by MM Lee????

Signs of the end of the regime????

Anonymous said...

Legal? Factual? Faulty?

Being a heartlander peasant with no leegal training whatsoever, I find that the sentencing of judges for various crimes a little confusing. Kidney patients seems to have a better deal than lung cancer patients.

It seems to me that those dying from failed kidney gets more compassion than those dying from lung cancer.

Then again, S'pore rewards able medal-winning Olympians ten times more than medal-winning disabled Paralympians.

Who's law is it anyway?


kaffein said...

No matter what Nair does, he's going to be pronounced guilty and go to jail.

So I think you point is moot.

On a side note, think about it. Nair wrote the blog in the US. Anyway, what he wrote was on his own capacity. It will be the blogging community who will condemn him. Just like Wee Su Min's case. Did she insult Derek? Of course she did. And a whole lot of other people too! Does it warrant a jail term?

Only when Nair is back in Singapore to see the trial that he was arrested. Isn't it coincidental? And then we have the police car incident line with loopholes that even a 6-yr old can fall into them.

Have you really given thought about them?

Smells fishy,

Dex said...

I'm sorry to say this, but an insult is an insult. He was rude, period. Just because Nair wants to express his discontent doesn't warrant such stupid mistakes.

Go onto the street to call anyone a whore who's prostituting herself on any cause, and let's see if you can get away with it.

And i'm also sorry to say that if this is what testing our freedom of speech is about, we're truly doomed to have people who think insults are fine when we express our anger, and those people who support these insult mongers.

Anonymous said...

Those who gave the votes to the PAP because of upgrading for their estates were prostituting themselves. 66.6% gave the votes, so prostituting can be considered a national practice.
IBA's report reflected a lack of independence in the judiciary. A layman will interprete it crudely as those sitting on the bench prostituting themselves to the govt. What a wonderful coincident when the AG was subsequently promoted to CJ after ruling in favour of the incumbent with some twisted logic. IBA and the World Court will laugh with their bollocks should they become aware of it and the many stupid laws in place.

Anonymous said...

I don't expect the owner of this blog to fairly report what transpired in court.After all he is a lawyer and some time in the future he might be standing in court himself to defend clients. It is always good to have some goodwill stashed away for the future. The Straits Times only published excerpts for first 2 days and then was totally silent on what transpired next 3 days.Today kept totally silent during the entire period.This is a point to consider as they went to town on earlier cases like the woman who suffered an exorcism. Says a lot about independent reporting.
Even on the final day's guilty report all you get is a recap of known facts and that was about it.
As for Mr. Yadav- he sounds like the reporter who saw ten minutes of a play and gave a full report!
Finally an earlier post I sent in was deleted by Mr.Yadav so I am saving this post for posting to other sites should the same happen.
He hasn't learnt to take critiscm in stride.