Iskandar bin Rahmat and others v Attorney-General and another

CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date04 August 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] SGCA 58
Citation[2022] SGCA 58
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 31 of 2022
Hearing Date04 August 2022
Plaintiff CounselThe appellants in person
Defendant CounselJohn Lu Zhuoren, Chin Jincheng, Ting Yue Xin Victoria (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Subject MatterConstitutional Law,Accused person,Rights,Fundamental liberties,Right to life and personal liberty,Equality before the law,Tort,Breach of statutory duty,Essential factors,Abuse of Process,Collateral purpose
Published date11 August 2022
Sundaresh Menon CJ (delivering the judgment of the court):

There are two matters before us today. The first is CA/CA 31/2022 (“CA 31”), which is an appeal against the decision of the High Court Judge (“the Judge”) in HC/SUM 2858/2022 (“SUM 2858”) that was rendered yesterday striking out HC/OC 166/2022 (“OC 166”) in its entirety. OC 166 in turn was a claim brought by 24 convicted prisoners (collectively “the appellants”) seeking: A declaration that ss 356, 357 and 409 of the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 (2020 Rev Ed) (“the CPC Cost Provisions”) are inconsistent with Arts 9(1) and 12(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (2020 Rev Ed) (“the Constitution”). They claim that the CPC Cost Provisions deny their constitutional right to access to justice1 (“the Declaration Claim”). Damages for breach of a statutory duty “to allow and/or not to obstruct and/or to facilitate access to justice and/or access to counsel/legal advice in accordance with Article 9 of the Constitution, the Legal Profession Act 1966, Prisons Act 1993 and Prisons Regulations as well as the common law applicable in Singapore” (“the Damages Claim”).2

The second matter that is before us today is an oral application made by the 2nd Appellant in CA 31, Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee (“Abdul Rahim”), seeking a stay of execution in respect of a Warrant to carry out the death sentence that was imposed on him some time ago. That sentence is scheduled to be carried out tomorrow. The stay application is grounded on an action that the 2nd appellant filed, namely HC/OC 173/2022 (“OC 173”), on 3 August 2022 against his counsel at trial, ostensibly for breach of his duty and for failing to follow instructions.

At the start of the proceedings before us, the appellants, who were in person, made an oral application for permission to be assisted by a McKenzie friend. Specifically, we were informed that the appellants wished to have Mr M Ravi (“Mr Ravi”), an advocate and solicitor, who currently does not hold a Practising Certificate (“PC”) act as their McKenzie friend. Mr Ravi did hold a conditional PC, but this expired at the end of March this year. This was not renewed and indeed Mr Ravi had undertaken that he would not apply for a PC prior to the end of March 2023. We first dispose of this briefly.

We asked the appellants what the purpose of the proposed McKenzie friend was and were told it was to enable them to get legal advice. We declined the request. A McKenzie friend has no right at all with respect to pending litigation. Any attempt to invoke the assistance of a McKenzie friend is at the initiative of the litigant and subject to the permission of the court. The court will usually be sympathetic to such a request where it considers that the litigant reasonably requires assistance appropriate to that which may be provided by a McKenzie friend. A McKenzie friend may not act as an advocate for a litigant, and is best seen as a support to aid the litigant in the way of helping with documents or with taking notes or with guiding a litigant through the process.

In Wee Soon Kim Anthony v UBS AG [2003] 1 SLR(R) 833 (Anthony Wee), after observing at [17] that a litigant may be denied the assistance of a McKenzie friend if there is reason, the High Court observed at [18]: A McKenzie friend who takes his responsibilities seriously is a help not only to the litigant who seeks his assistance, but also to the court. He should be permitted to stay. On the other hand, one who abuses the privilege by disregarding the directions of the court, who pursues an agenda beyond helping the litigant, or who uses the privilege as a back door to a legal practice he is not qualified for, should not be allowed to carry on.

[emphasis added in bold italics]

It was clear to us that this was not a case where the appellants needed the assistance of a McKenzie friend. The appellants had advanced their arguments before the Judge yesterday and directions had been given for those to stand as submissions before us. It was evident from those submissions that they either had already been assisted in developing their legal points or they did not require such assistance. Further this was not a case where there were voluminous documents such that they needed help to be assisted with these.

In any case, we were not minded to permit Mr Ravi to take on such a role. First, we were mindful of his previous conduct where he had appeared in a matter when he did not have a valid PC, ostensibly to provide “technical support”. In Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam v Attorney-General and another matter [2022] SGCA 26 we observed as follows at [21]–[22]: The hearing on 1 March 2022 was scheduled to start at 10.00am. Although the appellant and the Prosecution were in court and although the court was ready to hear the matter at 10.00am, Ms Netto only arrived at 10.15am. She was accompanied by Mr Ravi, even though he is not presently able to practise as an advocate and solicitor or to appear before the court … When the hearing started, Ms Netto introduced Mr Ravi and sought permission for him to be allowed to sit at the counsel table to provide her with ‘technical support’. When asked to explain the nature of this technical support, Ms Netto said that his role would be limited to handing her documents when she asked for them. However, as the hearing progressed, Mr Ravi hardly handed any documents to Ms Netto. Instead, it became obvious that Ms Netto would not take any position in relation to the case or the arguments without Mr Ravi’s substantive inputs: nearly every submission made by Ms Netto and just about every answer she gave in response to questions from the court over the course of the hour-long hearing was preceded by an often extended, hushed discussion with Mr Ravi. This was embarrassing, since Mr Ravi was not permitted to act as a solicitor at this time but appeared to be giving instructions to Ms Netto; it was also disrespectful to the court for such conduct to be carried on in our sight and in a manner that was wholly contrary to what Ms Netto had conveyed to us as the basis for her request that Mr Ravi be permitted to sit beside her at the counsel table when he was not entitled to do so.

Aside from this, we had regard to the fact that Mr Ravi had subsequently decided not to renew his PC and had undertaken not to apply for a PC until next year. In those circumstances, we did not think it would have been appropriate for him to be giving legal advice to these appellants. We were concerned that Mr Ravi should not use this as a way to do through the back door that which he is not lawfully permitted to do.

With that we turn to the matters before us.


The 2nd appellant, Abdul Rahim, and a co-accused person, Ong Seow Ping (“Ong”), are scheduled to be executed on Friday, 5 August 2022 pursuant to the death sentence that was imposed on each of them. Ong is not party to these proceedings.

Conviction and appeal

They were convicted on 15 March 2018 in a joint trial (“the Joint Trial”). They faced separate charges of possessing a Class A controlled drug for the purpose of trafficking under s 5(1)(a), read with s 5(2), of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) (“the MDA”). The trial judge found that the alternative sentencing regime under s 33B of the MDA was not applicable and imposed the death sentence (see Public Prosecutor v Ong Seow Ping and another [2018] SGHC 82 at [1]). Abdul Rahim was represented by Nadwani Manoj Prakash (“Manoj”), Jeeva Arul Joethy and Luo Ling Ling. We return to this later.

On 5 March 2020, Abdul Rahim’s and Ong’s appeals (“the Appeals”) against conviction and sentence were dismissed. At the appeal Abdul Rahim was represented by a different counsel, Dhillon Surinder Singh (“Mr Singh”) who was assisted by one of the assisting counsel, Luo Ling Ling, who had also been part of the team representing him at trial.

Abdul Rahim was also involved in two other sets of proceedings before the present set of proceedings. In HC/OS 825/2021 and HC/OS 1025/2021 (see for instance Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin and others v Attorney-General [2021] SGHC 274), he was part of a group of applicants jointly represented by Mr Ravi in proceedings that were dismissed.

OC 166

The Warrants of Execution for Abdul Rahim and Ong were issued to the Commissioner of Prisons on 19 July 2022, stating that they were to be executed on 5 August 2022. Abdul Rahim received his Notice of Execution on Friday, 29 July 2022.3 The appellants contend that they had intended to file OC 166 on Thursday 28 July 2022, but that the Registry officer at the prison had erroneously4 rejected their filing and that they were only eventually able to do so on Monday 1 August 2022.5

We have already noted that the principal relief sought in OC 166 was a declaration that the CPC Cost Provisions are invalid for inconsistency with the Constitution. For convenience we set these out as follows:

Costs ordered by Court of Appeal or General Division of High Court

The Court of Appeal or the General Division of the High Court, in the exercise of its powers under Part 20, may — on its own motion, make an order for costs to be paid by any party to any other party as the Court of Appeal or the General Division of the High Court thinks fit; or on the application of any party, make an order for costs, of such amount as the Court of Appeal or the General Division of the High Court thinks fit, to be paid to that party by any other party.


Before the Court of Appeal or the General Division of the High Court makes any order for costs to be paid by an accused to the prosecution, the Court of Appeal or the General Division of the High Court must be satisfied that — the commencement, continuation or conduct of the matter under Part 20 by the accused was an abuse of the process of the...

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2 cases
  • K Kawshigan v Tan Shu Mei, Nora
    • Singapore
    • Magistrates' Court (Singapore)
    • 13 January 2023
    ...action to be stayed or dismissed or judgment to be entered accordingly. In Iskandar bin Rahmat and others v Attorney-General and another [2022] SGCA 58 at [17]–[19], the Court of Appeal provided guidance on each of the above three grounds: 17 Under O 9 r 16(1)(a) [of] ROC [2021], the test i......
  • Eurogreen Building Products Private Limited v Savourer Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Magistrates' Court (Singapore)
    • 1 September 2022
    ...of the Court. Further guidance is provided in the recent decision of Iskandar bin Rahmat and others v Attorney-General and another [2022] SGCA 58 (“Iskandar bin Rahmat”). There, in explaining the applicable test for each limb under O 9 r 16(1) of ROC 2021, the Court of Appeal relied on case......

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