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Raja Petra’s case to be tried at Sessions Court (Updated 2.25pm)

Updated on 13 Feb 2009 at 2.25pm

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Feb 2009: Blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, who is charged with defaming the deputy prime minister’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and two others, today failed in his bid to have his case transferred back to the Magistrate’s Court for trial.

Judicial Commissioner Zainal Azman Ab Aziz ruled that the decision of the Magistrate’s Court in allowing the prosecution’s application to transfer the case to the Sessions Court was valid and in order.

He said the decision by magistrate Nazran Mohd Sham on 15 Aug 2008 did not violate Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution.

He then dismissed Raja Petra’s application for a review of the decision on the ground that it was baseless and had no merit.

Raja Petra, 59, had sought an order from the High Court to refer the matter to the Federal Court on a constitutional point or to return the case to the Magistrate’s Court for trial.

One of Raja Petra’s counsel, J Chandra, told reporters that they would appeal the decision to the Court to Appeal. The Court of Appeal is the last resort for Raja Petra as a lower court case ends at the appellate court.

Raja Petra, the editor of news portal Malaysia Today, is charged with defaming Rosmah, Lt Col Abdul Aziz Buyong and his wife, Lt Col Norhayati Hassan in a statutory declaration made at the Jalan Duta Court complex here at 10.25am on 18 June last year.

Raja Petra, who was in court, faces a maximum sentence of two years jail or RM10,000 fine, or both, if convicted.

When the case was mentioned in the Sessions Court, his lawyer, Manjeet Singh Dhillon, made a preliminary objection and asked the court to send the case back to the Magistrate’s Court on grounds that the transfer order by the Magistrate’s Court violated section 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

However, on 28 Nov last year, Sessions Court judge Mohamad Sekeri Mamat decided to leave it to the High Court to decide on the matter.

Today, the High Court decided that the case should remain in the Sessions Court.

Zainal Azman, in his judgment, also said that the defence submission that Raja Petra might be exposed to potentially heavier sentence in the Sessions Court should he be convicted, did not hold water.

He said under Section 500, the maximum jail sentence was the same, namely two years, whether the case was tried in the Sessions or Magistrate’s Court.

He said Raja Petra might face a bigger fine in the Sessions Court whose jurisdiction exceeded RM10,000 “but it’s not appropriate for us to assume that the Sessions Court judge will impose a stiffer sentence if he (Raja Petra) is convicted because the Sessions Court judge is more mature than a magistrate.”

He said that according to authorities cited in previous cases decided by the highest courts, Section 177 of the CPC prescribed several situations and pre-conditions which enabled a magistrate to transfer a case to the Sessions Court.

“Although these guidelines and pre-conditions are not stated clearly, the sentence structure clearly shows that a magistrate can transfer cases to the Sessions Court for trial,” he added.

Zainal Azman also said that under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution, the Attorney-General had the power to choose any court to charge a person. — Bernama

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