Law Society made 3 attempts to stop lawyer M Ravi

By Andrew Loh | Richard Wan

Before the controversy surrounding the Law Society’s attempts to stop lawyer M Ravi from carrying out his professional duties in the courts has died down, it has emerged that the society had tried 3 times in the space of 2 days to stop Mr Ravi from making representations for his clients in Court.

As previously reported on and TR Emeritus, Law Society representative, Mr Wong Siew Hong, made the first attempt during Monday’s proceedings at the High Court. Mr Ravi was in Justice Philip Pillai’s courtroom putting forth his arguments in the case brought by Mdm Vellama Marie Muthu to have the Court declare the Prime Minister does not have unfettered discretion in calling by-elections.

Mr Wong, who is the chairman of the sub-committee on member care of the Law Society, had approached both senior counsel Mr David Chong, representing the Attorney General, and Mr Ravi, outside the courtroom on Monday, before proceedings began. He had with him a copy of a letter from Dr Calvin Fones in which the doctor stated that he had diagnosed Mr Ravi as having a “relapse” of his bi-polar condition and that Mr Ravi was “unfit to practise” law.

Dr Fones had sent the letter to the Law Society, apparently without Mr Ravi’s knowledge.

Later, Mr Wong attempted to address the Court in open court, although before the proceedings Mr Louis Joseph – Mr Ravi’s co-counsel – had advised Mr Wong to address the judge in chambers instead regarding Dr Fones’ letter. In any case, Justice Pillai disallowed Mr Wong  making his case in open court and asked him to be seated and that he will hear Mr Wong and the two parties in chambers after the morning’s proceedings.

In chambers, Justice Pillai reprimanded Mr Wong for his behaviour and that of the Law Society, calling their behaviour “unprecedented”. Justice Pillai asked what Mr Wong wanted him to do. Mr Wong replied that he was only there to inform the Court of Dr Fones’ letter.  The judge then asked Mr Wong if Mr Ravi had a valid practising certificate and Mr Wong replied, yes. Justice Pillai then decided that since that was the case, Mr Ravi was free to continue in Court.

Later that same afternoon, Mr Wong again appeared before Justice Quentin Loh prior to the hearing into the case involving several party leaders of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) began.

Mr Wong, despite having been admonished by Justice Pillai in the morning, requested to be heard. Justice Loh then ordered all parties into chambers.

In chambers, Mr Wong informed the judge of the letter from Dr Fones. Mr Joseph, who was standing in for Mr Ravi, protested that Mr Ravi was not present to answer the claims by Mr Wong and the content of the letter from Dr Fones. The judge then said, “I’m glad this finished nicely.  I don’t like to take this matter to open court.”

The Court then resumed proceedings into the hearing on the SDP case.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Ravi and his associates were again at the High Court. They were there for a pre-trial conference on the case brought by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam to have the Court issue an injunction to stop the Singapore Government from providing loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Mr Jeyaretnam is seeking to do this because he argues that the Government had not sought or received the approval of the elected president and Parliament to provide the loans to the IMF.

The hearing, presided over by the senior assistant registrar, was at 9am and ended shortly after, at about 9.30am.

Mr Wong appeared at around that time only to discover that the pre-trial conference had already ended. We understand that Mr Wong was there for the same reasons for which he was in Court on the earlier two occasions on Monday when he interrupted  proceedings to inform the Court of Dr Fones’ letter. When Mr Wong realised the hearing had ended, he left the court house.

We understand that Mr Ravi is required to have his condition reviewed regularly in order to continue to practise law. This was imposed by the Law Society. Mr Wong’s sub-committee for member care is in charge of member lawyers who practise under such conditions. Mr Wong told the media that it was he who had “raised the matter to the Secretariat of the Law Society” when he was informed by Dr Fones of his diagnosis of Mr Ravi. It was the Secretariat “which agreed that the matter should be brought to the attention of the court”, Mr Wong is reported to have said.

The conditions imposed by the Law Society on Mr Ravi, however, do not include Mr Ravi’s doctor providing his diagnosis to the Law Society directly without Mr Ravi’s consent. Mr Ravi is supposed to submit his medical report to the Law Society every four months.

The conditions imposed on Mr Ravi by the Law Society expire in a few months, according to Mr Joseph. This, however, may be extended by the Law Society. Mr Ravi, however, can challenge this at the Court of Appeal, if an extension is sought by the Law Society.

The 3 attempts by Mr Wong, who was representing the Law Society, to have Mr Ravi stopped from carrying out his legal duties in Court have given rise to questions of not only the motivation behind the attempts, but also why proper court procedures were not followed. Why indeed did Mr Wong find it appropriate to interrupt court proceedings in the way he did, even after already having been admonished for doing so by Justice Pillai on Monday morning?

In addition, questions have now also been raised about the confidentiality of Dr Fones’ diagnosis, and how and why Dr Fones found it prudent to apparently betray this doctor-patient confidentiality, without first consulting Mr Ravi.

Mr Ravi says he intends to file a complain about Dr Fones with the Singapore Medical Association.