PETALING JAYA, 6 Nov 2008: The Malaysian Bar has called for the police to stop harassing lawyers by calling them in for questioning in relation to their cases.
Its president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said lawyers must be free to act for their clients without fear or favour.
The independence of the Bar is critical to the Rule of Law, she added.
“Unfortunately, over the course of the last several months, this independence has been threatened each time the police have called in lawyers for questioning on matters relating to the execution of their professional duties.
“This harassment must stop if we are indeed committed to access to justice and to the Rule of Law. It is internationally recognised that lawyers perform a vital function when they act for their clients in the pursuit of justice.
“It is also internationally recognised that they must be permitted to carry out these functions freely,” Ambiga said in a statement.
She was commenting on the case of lawyer N Surendran, who was questioned by the police at the Putrajaya police district headquarters here today.
Surendran was the counsel for Lourdes Mary, who was detained under the Societies Act along with nine other members of the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on 23 Oct.
During remand proceedings on 24 Oct at the Kajang Majistrate’s Court, Lourdes, who is a diabetic patient and requires insulin injections, collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital.
According to a statement published on the Bar’s website, this prompted Surendran to state to the magistrate that the police had been negligent to his client.
“As I left the court after the hearing, I was approached by two police officers and told that a report had been lodged against me for having said in court that the police were negligent.
“This development is very disturbing as it encroaches upon the sacrosanct duty of an advocate to speak without fear and favour on behalf of citizens,” Surendran said in the statement on the Bar’s website.
Ambiga said the Bar was perturbed that the police served a Section 111 notice on Surendran in relation to the statement he allegedly made.
Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows the police to compel anyone to give statements during investigation.
“We are seriously concerned, as no offence appears to have been committed and the police were unable to enlighten him as to what offence they are investigating.
“We therefore view the police questioning as an act of pure harassment and intimidation that encroaches upon the ability of an advocate and solicitor, who is an officer of the court, to perform his duties effectively and to the best of his ability,” she said.