Home > CaseLaws > Karam Singh v. Public Prosecutor [1975] 1 MLJ 229:

Karam Singh v. Public Prosecutor [1975] 1 MLJ 229:

8 AUGUST 1974


Raja Azlan Shah FJ (delivering oral judgement):

This is an appeal by an advocate and solicitor against summary conviction and sentence of two weeks’ imprisonment.

The facts so far disclosed in the record are that there was a heated argument between the magistrate and the learned Counsel who was appearing on behalf of a defendant in a case concerning impersonation under s. 170 of the Penal Code.

The learned magistrate adjourned into chambers for 15 minutes and after considering the matter returned to the Bench and decided to deal with the appellant summarily. The question here is whether the facts are sufficient to warrant summary committal for contempt.

Insulting behaviour by counsel, however reprehensible, may or may not be contempt depending on the surrounding circumstances. But, in my view, a magistrate’s summary power to proceed of his own motion must never be invoked unless the ends of justice really required such drastic means. No doubt it appeared to be rough justice, it is contrary to natural justice and can only be justified if noting else would do. Therefore this power must be exercised with scrupulous care and only when the case is clear beyond reasonable doubt. In my view, this is only in urgent cases a magistrate should take on himself to move. He should, in my view, leave it to the local Bar Committee to move in accordance with s. 27 of the Advocates & Solicitors Ordinance, 1947. The magistrate should not appear to be both prosecutor and Judge – a role which does not become him well.

In my opinion, it was not a case for summary punishment cause it was not sufficiently urgent or imperative. He would have done well if he had adjourned the case and reported the matter to the local Bar Committee. The power which a magistrate possesses is both salutary and dangerous. The present peal gives an opportunity to make clear that it should used reluctantly but fearlessly when and only when it is necessary to prevent justice from being obstructed or undermined. That is not because judges, witnesses and Counsel who are officers of the court, take themselves seriously, but because justice, whose servants we all are, must be taken seriously in a civilized society if the rule of law is to be maintained. Therefore in this case the learned magistrate should have adjourned the matter and reported it to the local Bar Committee, which I propose to do now.

However I would set aside the conviction and sentence.

Conviction and sentence set aside.

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