PUTRAJAYA, 17 April 2009: The Court of Appeal here today, for the first time, ruled that it can review its own decision upholding former national athletics coach C Ramanathan’s conviction and four-year prison sentence.
In an unanimous decision, Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Ram then set aside the previous Court of Appeal’s orders of 11 July 2008, which upheld Ramanathan’s conviction and four-year sentence for molesting two underaged female athletes in 1992.
Justice Sri Ram, who had been elevated as Federal Court Judge on 15 April, directed the appeal to be heard, before a different panel, on the merits of the case which were not argued before the previous panel.
However, a date has yet to be fixed. In allowing Ramanathan’s review application, Justice Sri Ram also ordered Ramanatahan to be released pending the appeal.
“You cannot keep him (Ramanathan) in custody as the conviction and sentence is set aside,” said Justice Sri Ram who heard the review application with Justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.
Justice Sri Ram also directed the High Court, which heard Ramanathan’s earlier appeal, to furnish grounds on the merits of the case apart from the delay of judgment and the standard of proof.
After the decision, Ramanathan’s counsel Karpal Singh told reporters that today’s decision would open the floodgates for others who thought their appeal ended at the Court of Appeal to review a Court of Appeal decision.
Ramanathan, 73, is seeking for the court to review the previous panel’s decision on 11 July last year, on his conviction and four-year imprisonment for molesting the two underage female athletes imposed by the Sessions Court on 8 Nov 1996.
Ramanathan, who was clad in green Kajang Prison uniform, when asked by the media on the decision said he was very happy and had expected the decision.
Smiling, Ramanathan said he would concentrate on his spiritual life and would continue to write a book on the aspects of coaching athletes.
When asked on his nine months and seven days experience in prison, Ramanathan said: “Nothing wonderful about prison at my age. It is not an easy thing for me to be in prison but I must thank the prison authorities for being very kind to me.”
On 11 July last year, Ramanathan was sent to the Kajang Prison to serve his four-year jail term after the Court of Appeal ordered him to undergo the sentence.
The prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal after the High Court set aside the Sessions Court’s decision and acquitted him after ruling that the trial judge had delayed writing the grounds of judgment.
Judge Umi Kalthum found Ramanathan guilty and sentenced him to four years’ jail on each of two charges of molesting the junior female athletes at Maba House here between 23 and 27 Oct 1992. Both sentences were to run concurrently.
The female athletes, then aged 15 and 16, were attending centralised training for the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in New Delhi. — Bernama