Not content with harassing journalists, the Securities Commission now hops on the bandwagon of other law enforcement agencies by trying to harass lawyers accompanying the journalists.

SC logoAlthough Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar insists she and her staff are not bullies, their behaviour is such that it has caused even MSM the Star to commence judicial review proceedings in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to declare as null and void the SC’s notice to their lawyer, Tharminder Singh of Izral Partnership, to attend as a witness to be investigated.

Aziah Ali J on Thursday allowed an interim stay of the notice to Tharminder on the application of LoyarBurokker Amer Hamzah Arshad on behalf of the Star.

Tharminder was just accompanying his client, a reporter of the Star, for the interview by the SC. Despite the fact that he was a lawyer accompanying his client who was being interviewed as a potential witness, Tharminder was merely recognised by the SC investigator as an “observer”. He was not allowed to speak to his client during the interview, and his client, reporter BK Sidhu, was not allowed to consult with him for advice.

But what was totally unacceptable was that at the end of the interview, Tharminder was asked to sign something to say that his client had given the statement voluntarily! This is troubling on many different levels.

Firstly, Tharminder is arguably restricted by solicitor-client privilege from disclosing any communication he receives from his client. There is some authority to say that even matters observed by a lawyer during the course of his engagement as a lawyer is covered by legal professional privilege.

More importantly, Tharminder was there to provide legal advice to the potential witness. By making him sign such a statement, Tharminder himself is being made into a witness. A lawyer who is himself a witness in a particular proceeding cannot act as a lawyer for any party in that dispute in Court! So, is the SC trying to deny legal representation to the Star by disqualifying all their lawyers? How many lawyers is a person meant to employ?

I understand that other law enforcement agencies are starting to do this as well, which is wholly against the spirit of the recent amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code providing witnesses and suspects who are called in for questioning by police a right to legal counsel.

Anyway, Tharminder naturally refused to sign such a statement. The Investigating Officer then apparently immediately typed up a notice demanding that Tharminder attend for an interview under section 134(1)(b) of the Securities Commission Act 1993 in two days time. This was the notice that Aziah Ali J has “stayed” for the time being until the full hearing of the application for leave to apply for judicial review.

It is noteworthy that quite recently, SUHAKAM (in one of the last acts of the previous batch of Commissioners) found that the police had acted wrongfully and in breach of human rights principles by detaining the infamous LAC 5 – lawyers who had attended at the Brickfields police station to provide legal assistance to detainees who had been holding a candle light vigil outside the police station.

It is hoped that the SC sees sense and immediately withdraws their onerous notice against Tharminder. All enforcement agencies should recognise that it is in the interest of justice for witnesses and suspects to be afforded an adequate opportunity to legal counsel during interviews and investigations.

See Also:

Securities Commission’s interrogation shows need for journalist protection (CIJ Media Statement)

Shanmuga K sometimes sees a purple banana emerging in his sub-conscious. An article seems to then be magically written. He is @shanmuga_k on Twitter. When he does not see those purple bananas, he practices...

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