Abraham v Law Society of Singapore

JudgeS Rajendran J
Judgment Date29 April 1991
Neutral Citation[1991] SGHC 55
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 866 of 1990
Date29 April 1991
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselR Palakrishnan (Palakrishnan & Partners)
Citation[1991] SGHC 55
Defendant CounselTQ Lim (TQ Lim & Co)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterLaw Society Inquirty Committee's Report,Natural justice,Law Society Inquiry Committee Report,Right of accused solicitor to copy of report,Legal Profession,Whether applicant had right of discovery,Inquiry committee report,Words and Phrases,Disciplinary procedures,Administrative Law,Right to know the case against applicant,Discovery of documents,s 85(3) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161),Application,Right to be heard,'Reasonable opportunity to be heard',Civil Procedure,O 24 Rules of the Supreme Court 1970,Pending cause or matter necessary before order can be made,Declaration proper and appropriate order

The plaintiff herein is an advocate and solicitor against whom a complaint was made to the Law Society of Singapore. In her complaint, the complainant made various allegations of misconduct against the plaintiff which related mainly to the manner in which the affairs of the `House of Israel` in which the plaintiff was said to be a member was conducted. One of these allegations was that the plaintiff had asked her to sign certain documents in connection with the purchase of No 577 Sembawang Road, Singapore in the joint names of the complainant and the plaintiff without giving her an opportunity to read the documents.

The council of the Law Society referred the complaint to the chairman of the inquiry panel who, as required by the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161) (the Act), constituted an inquiry committee to inquire into the matter.
By a notice dated 20 February 1990, the chairman of the inquiry committee forwarded the complaint to the plaintiff and invited him to give the inquiry committee any written explanation which he may wish to offer and to advise the inquiry committee whether he wished to be heard in which event the plaintiff was invited to appear before the committee at its hearing.

The plaintiff submitted a 47-page explanation supported by many documents in which he denied all the allegations of impropriety made in the complaint.
The plaintiff also appeared before the inquiry committee. It appears from the affidavit of the plaintiff filed herein that when the plaintiff appeared before the inquiry committee, the plaintiff and his counsel were asked by the committee to address them only on the question of the purchase of No 577, Sembawang Road and that the committee looked into the case of Re A Solicitor [1974] 3 All ER 853 in some detail. The plaintiff and his counsel accordingly confined themselves to issues concerning the purchase of the said house. At a subsequent hearing of the committee, counsel for the plaintiff tendered to the committee a lengthy written submission on the need for inlegal advice, particularly in domestic-type situation.

The inquiry committee forwarded its report to the council on 16 May 1990.
Counsel for the plaintiff, under cover of his letter to the executive secretary of the Law Society dated 1 June 1990, enclosed a copy of the written submission. In the letter, counsel informed the executive secretary that the inquiry committee had only concerned itself on the need for the complainant to have been independently advised in the purchase of the property and that he was enclosing the written submission because that issue was somewhat novel and he did not know if, in its report, the inquiry committee had included the written submission.

By letter dated 6 June 1990, the executive secretary of the Law Society informed the plaintiff that the complaint against him had been investigated by the inquiry committee who was of the view that no formal investigation by a disciplinary committee was necessary but had recommended that a penalty be imposed against him for his improper conduct in -

(a) failing to advise the complainant to seek independent legal advice before obtaining her agreement to have the property transferred to the complainant and himself; and

(b) engaging his then partner to advise the complainant and act for her in the mortgage and purchase when what was required was legal advice from an entirely independent source.

The letter went on to say that the council had made its determination under s 84(1)(b) and that before the council imposes a penalty on him, the council wanted to know whether he wished to be heard pursuant to s 85(3) of the Act.

The plaintiff, through his solicitors, informed the council by letter dated 9 June 1990 that he wished to be heard.
Subsequently, by letter dated 15 June 1990, his solicitors asked the executive secretary of the Law Society for a copy of the report of the inquiry committee. In a brief response, the executive secretary replied that the society would not be able to accede to the request `unless it is on the directions of the court`. The plaintiff thereupon instituted the present proceedings in which he asks for an order that the defendants furnish to him a copy of the said report.

Under s 83(7) of the Act, the inquiry committee is obliged in its report to deal, inter alia, with the following matters:

(1) the necessity or otherwise of a formal investigation by a disciplinary committee; and

(2) if in the view of the inquiry committee no formal investigation by a disciplinary committee is necessary, the inquiry committee is required to recommend -

(a) a penalty sufficient and appropriate to the misconduct committed, or

(b) that the complaint be dismissed.

The council is by s 84(1) of the Act obliged to consider the report within one month of the receipt of the report.
Upon consideration of the report the council may adopt one of the following courses:

(a) Refer the matter back to the inquiry committee or adjourn for consideration [s 84(1)(d)].

(b) If in its report the inquiry committee recommends that there should be a formal investigation by a disciplinary committee, the council is obliged to apply forthwith to the Chief Justice to appoint a disciplinary committee to hear and investigate the matter (s 86).

(c) If in its report, the inquiry committee recommends that a formal investigation is not necessary (and whether it recommends the dismissal of the complaint or the imposition of a penalty), the council may disagree with the recommendation and request the Chief Justice to appoint a disciplinary committee [s 84(2)(b)].

(d) If in its report, the inquiry committee recommends that a formal investigation is not necessary and recommends that the complaint be dismissed, the council if it accepts the recommendation, may determine that a formal investigation is not necessary [s 84(1)(a)].

(e) If in its report, the inquiry committee recommends that a formal investigation is not necessary and recommends a penalty for the misconduct committed, the council, if it accepts the recommendation that a formal investigation is not necessary may determine that no cause of sufficient gravity exists for a formal investigation...

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4 cases
  • Odex Pte Ltd v Pacific Internet Limited
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 23 August 2007
    ...as to whether the Court can order pre-action discovery under a Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction: see Abraham v. Law Society of Singapore [1991] SLR 761. But in Reebok International Ltd v Royal Corp and Another Action [1992] 2 SLR 136, Chan Sek Keong JC (as he then was) in a case involving Ant......
  • Woh Hup (Pte) Ltd and Others v Lian Teck Construction Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 10 May 2005
    ...has inherent jurisdiction to give discovery orders that are not prescribed by legislation: see eg, Abraham v Law Society of Singapore [1991] SLR 761, AJ Bekhor & Co Ltd v Bilton [1981] QB 923 and Cox v Bankside Members Agency Ltd [1995] CLY 17 In response, the respondent contended that the ......
  • Re E (guardianship of an infant)
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 14 April 2003
    ...against a non-party arises from the Rules of Court, and not from the common law. (See the case of Abraham v. Law Society of Singapore [1991] 3 MLJ 359. This case was decided before the present Order 24 Rule 6(5) (as set out in paragraph 1 above) were enacted. The court held that it had no p......
  • Edward Poh Chang Sui U0385, Jalan Tenaga 87007 F.T Labuan v Halizae Bte Hussien @ Christina Tambakau Kelab Golf Labuan P.O.Box 81287 87022 F.T Labuan, 25-03-2014
    • Malaysia
    • High Court (Malaysia)
    • 25 March 2014
    ...of Malaya [1962] MLJ 169, Rohana bte Ariffin & Anor v Universiti Sains Malaysia [1989] 1 MLJ 487, Abraham v Law Society of 15 Singapore [1991] 3 MLJ 359 and Raja Abdul Malek Muzaffar Shah bin Shahruzzaman v Setiausaha Suruhanjaya Pasukan Polis & Ors [1995] 1 MLJ 308. In the oft-cited case o......
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