PUTRAJAYA (July 27): A three-member Court of Appeal bench today dismissed an appeal by senior lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, who had been struck off the rolls of the Malaysian Bar from practising law since November 2015 over allegations of misconduct in relation to a controversial videotape over the appointment of judges.
Following the decision, Lingam cannot continue practising law in Malaysia.
Justice Datuk Lee Swee Seng ruled that there was no breach of natural justice as alleged by Lingam in his appeal of not being able to attend the disciplinary board proceedings as the disciplinary committee hearings had in the past granted adjournments to his request.
"The argument that the taped recording was tampered with cannot hold as the persons who taped it — Loh Gwo Burne and his father — said it was the recording of the event and conversation at Lingam's house.
"Furthermore, he (Lingam) never denied that the conversation with the other person on the phone took place or that he was boasting to the Loh's. As such, we find there is no merit in this appeal and the decision by the High Court is affirmed," the judge said.
“We are finding that the conduct was unbecoming of a lawyer and also undermining the process of the country's judicial system. As such, we find there is no merit in this appeal and the decision by the High Court is affirmed," the judge said.
Justice Lee, who sat with Justices Datuk Lee Heng Cheong and Datuk Hashim Hamzah, also ordered Lingam pay costs of RM30,000 to the Malaysian Bar.
Lingam, who was present in the online proceedings, was represented by counsel R Thayalan, while the Malaysian Bar was represented by Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, Kwan Will Sen and James Khong.
The senior lawyer was trying to set aside the disciplinary board's decision in November 2015 to strike him off the rolls of advocates and solicitors for misconduct in relation to allegedly interfering with judicial appointments in the country.
The disciplinary committee of the bar in 2014 found him guilty and only intended to fine and suspend him for a period of two years, but this was overruled by the disciplinary board.
Lingam, whose real name is Kanagalingam Vellupillai, went on to file a judicial review over the board's decision.
However, the High Court dismissed his challenge.
The allegation concerns a video recording made by Gwo Burne of a telephone conversation between Lingam and another person, who was later determined to be then Chief Judge of Malaya Tun Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim.
RCI held in 2008 found 'sufficient evidence of misbehaviour'
A Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) was held in 2008 as a result of the release of the videotape and the five-member bench ruled that the video was authentic, that the other person on the other line in the telephone conversation was Ahmad Fairuz, and that there was “sufficient evidence of misbehaviour”.
The RCI also recommended that Lingam be investigated under the Sedition Act, Legal Profession Act, Official Secrets Act and the Penal Code.
Besides the allegation of judicial fixing, the Federal Court also sentenced Lingam to six months' jail for contempt of court for an affidavit accusing a Federal Court judge of plagiarism. He never served the sentence as Lingam is presently overseas.
Razlan, who appeared for the Bar, said this was the right decision made by the Court of Appeal in upholding the High Court's decision.
“However, Lingam has an opportunity to file leave for an appeal to the Federal Court if he wishes,” said the lawyer when contacted by theedgemarkets.com.
Lingam can file an appeal within 30 days of today's decision.
Meanwhile, Lingam's counsel Thayalan said he had received instructions to appeal the matter at the Federal Court.