Crime & Courts

Federal Court says no to Najib's application to postpone hearing of final appeal [updated]

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has refused Datuk Seri Najib Razak's application to postpone his final appeal involving the SRC International case after making it clear that justice delayed was justice denied.

Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ordered the appeal hearing to begin at 9.30am on Thursday.

She said the defence application to postpone the hearing by three to four months just because they were not ready to proceed was unacceptable.

"To put it bluntly, the defence seeks an adjournment of these appeals for the simple reason that they are not prepared.

"However, the fixing of the dates of this appeal has been known from as far back as the case management in April, which is some four months ago.

"Parties were then advised that the Court would proceed on the dates fixed," she said.

Touching on Najib's decision to change counsel at the last minute, she said this was done with full knowledge of the dates that had been fixed for hearing.

She said it was obvious that the appellant took it upon himself to discharge his solicitors to the present ones, Messrs. Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (Messrs. Zaid Ibrahim) who in turn appointed Hisyam Teh Poh Teik as lead counsel.

She pointed out that the court had no less than four times reminded the parties that the appeal would proceed as scheduled.

On Najib's counsel's arguments that he was not prepared to proceed with the case, Tengku Maimun cited Rule 6(a) of the Legal Profession (Practice and Etiquette) Rules 1978 which stipulated that an advocate and solicitor must not accept a brief he is reasonably certain of not being able to appear and represent the client on the required day.

"The general rule is that counsel shall make every effort to be ready for trial and appeals on the day fixed.

"It is the appellant's right to discharge his former solicitors and appoint new ones. This is his right to do so but he cannot, after having made that decision, turn around and say that his new lawyers are not ready to proceed with the hearing of the appeals.

"The new lawyers too, having accepted the brief, are not entitled to say they need more time to prepare knowing fully well that the dates had been fixed well in advance," she said.

Tengku Maimun also pointed out that Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and the Rule of Law demanded that the appellant be treated just like any other accused.

"As such, we state again that while the appellant is entitled to his right to change his counsel, he is not entitled to make this choice at the expense of the Court, the prosecution or the entire justice system," she said.

Earlier, Hisyam had pleaded for three to four months to prepare for the appeal.

Hisyam had requested for an adjournment to the hearing of the appeal after stating that he needed time to prepare as he had just being appointed as lead counsel for the case.

"It is my fault.... It is not the appellant's. I am aware of the rule of ethics.

"I hope the court can consider giving me sufficient time," he said, adding this was no ordinary appeal, involving volumes of records concerning the case.

Hisyam added he had never asked for adjournments in the four and a half decades he had been practicing as a lawyer.

The senior lawyer said he needed three to four months, adding this was not too long a time to ask given the circumstances.

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