Despite having been suspended from practising because of his worsened psychiatric condition, lawyer M Ravi will have to appear before a disciplinary tribunal for purported acts of misconduct before his suspension kicked in.
This, after the chief justice yesterday cleared the way for the Law Society’s (LawSoc) complaint against him be formally investigated.
The complaint arose from Mr Ravi’s alleged actions on four occasions in the span of around two weeks after he was served the directive from the council of LawSoc on 10th February to suspend his legal practice pending a medical examination into his mental condition.
On all 4 counts, CJ Sundaresh Menon found that the LawSoc has proven there are grounds to start formal disciplinary probes against Mr Ravi.
On the first incident, which happened hours after Mr Ravi got LawSoc’s directive, the lawyer went to the society’s office and “acted in a manner which constituted harassment or caused alarm or distress” to its staff, said LawSoc. Mr Ravi had also uploaded a video clip of his visit with three companions.
A day later, he sent an email to The Straits Times’ news desk and a reporter containing allegations of misconduct against another lawyer and confidential legal documents, LawSoc charged.
One week after that, on 18 February, Mr Ravi is said to have made derogatory and defamatory remarks against LawSoc president Thio Shen Yi, with references to the society’s decision to direct his suspension.
The last complaint related to Mr Ravi’s false allegations that a lawyer acting for LawSoc had assaulted him during a closed-door court hearing on 26th February on the society’s application to effect his suspension.
Mr Ravi’s conduct on these instances, LawSoc argued, “brought the legal profession as a whole into disrepute and lowered its esteem in the eyes of the general public”.
In ruling that LawSoc’s complaints warranted investigations, CJ Menon, in his 24-page written judgment released today, said Mr Ravi should have used the proper channels to raise his concerns on a couple of these occasions.
Referring to the lawyer’s trip to LawSoc’s office, where he apparently used abusive language and behaved in an unruly manner, CJ Menon said Mr Ravi was presumably motivated by his desire to demonstrate his displeasure with the society’s move to seek his suspension.
“Even if (he) was unhappy with that decision, he ought to have resorted to the proper avenues to voice his concerns,” wrote the judge.
The same goes for his accusations to the press that a fellow lawyer did not hold a practising certificate.
“Had he legitimate concerns regarding (the lawyer’s) professional conduct, he ought instead to have lodged a formal complaint against (him) with LawSoc; he did not do so,” said CJ Menon. “Here, there did not seem to be any legitimate purpose for (Mr Ravi) to go to the press with the accusations.”
As for Mr Ravi’s alleged comments against Mr Thio, the judge said the lawyer “was not justified” in speaking out in that manner, even if he felt aggrieved about the suspension.
While Mr Ravi’s lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said his client had apologised to those involved, CJ Menon felt that there is “the need to set the record straight by way of the fact-finding process in the disciplinary proceedings”.
He added: “This is important in the present case where there have been various allegations made against a number of people and a high level of media attention and publicity generated around the alleged misconduct.”
If the disciplinary tribunal subsequently finds Mr Ravi guilty of these charges of misconduct, he might have to face a Court of Three Judges, the legal profession’s highest disciplinary body, which will determine his penalty.
This is not the first time that Mr Ravi has been asked to account for himself before a disciplinary tribunal. In 2006, for instance, he was suspended for a year for being disrespectful to a district judge. There were several other occasions before and following that which saw Mr Ravi being fined for other transgressions.