Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date26 August 2009
Neutral Citation[2009] SGHC 190
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1547 of
Date26 August 2009
Year2009
Published date03 September 2009
Plaintiff CounselVergis S Abraham and Vikna Rajah (Drew & Napier LLC)
Citation[2009] SGHC 190
Defendant CounselK Anparasan (KhattarWong),Jeffrey Chan Wah Teck SC and Stanley Kok (Attorney-General's Chambers)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterProfessional conduct,Whether applicant fit to be restored to the Roll,Section 102 Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 2001 Rev Ed),Legal Profession,Application for reinstatement to Roll of Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore

26 August 2009

Judgment reserved.

Chao Hick Tin JA (delivering the judgment of the court):

Introduction

1 This application is made by one Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh (“the Applicant”), who is seeking to be reinstated to the Roll of Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore (“the Roll”) after having been struck off the Roll on 17 May 1996 for misconduct.

2 On 3 August 1995, the Applicant was found guilty by the High Court of two charges brought against him, namely, that of cheating a client of $5,000 under s 420 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) and of attempting to cheat the same client of a further $5,000 under s 420 read with s 511 of the Penal Code. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months on each charge and both sentences were ordered to run consecutively.

3 Following his conviction, the Law Society applied to the Court of Three Judges (“the Court”), requiring the Applicant to show cause why he should not be disciplined under s 83 of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1994 Rev Ed). On 17 May 1996, the Court, having heard the Law Society and the Applicant, held him to have displayed an “extreme defect in character” and, pursuant to the powers conferred under s 83, struck him off the Roll. The Court’s judgment relating to the striking-off order may be found in The Law Society of Singapore v Kalpanath Singh s/o Ramraj Singh [1996] SGHC 129.

4 On 5 December 2008, at the age of 67, and about 12½ years after being struck off, the Applicant applied to have his name reinstated to the Roll pursuant to s 102(1) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 2001 Rev Ed) (“the LPA”). This is the application that is now before us.

Background facts

5 Prior to his being called to the Bar in 1979, the Applicant had served some eighteen years as a senior police officer in the Singapore Police Force (“SPF”). In the same year that he was admitted to the Bar, he was promoted to be a Deputy Superintendent of Police. While in the SPF, he received many accolades, which showed that he had made positive contributions to the Force. However, in May 1979, the Applicant decided to terminate his career with the SPF and embark on a law practice under his own name, M/s Kalpanath & Co, where he handled both civil litigation and criminal matters.

6 In 1987, the Applicant was retained by one Ms Lee Sim Yow (“Lee”) in an action for copyright infringement. By then, the Applicant was already an advocate and solicitor of eight years’ standing. It was alleged by Lee that the Applicant had misrepresented to her on two occasions that refundable court deposits of $5,000 were required in the legal proceedings pertaining to her action. Hence, on or about 18 September 1987, Lee paid over the sum of $5,000 by way of a cheque made in favour of the Applicant’s firm. On 21 January 1988, on a similar request, a second cheque for the same amount was issued. However, Lee later discovered the deception and managed to stop payment on the second cheque. In March 1992, the Applicant was charged in court on the following two charges:

You, Kalpanath Singh s/o Ramraj Singh, male, 47 years old, NRIC No 1116101/D, are charged that you, on or about 18 September 1987, at No 101A, Upper Cross Street, #12-17, People’s Park Centre, Singapore, did cheat one Madam Lee Sim Yow by deceiving her into believing that a sum of $5,000 was required to be paid into court as a deposit in S 2425/87 and thereby dishonestly induced the said Lee Sim Yow to deliver a sum of $5,000 to you, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 420 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).

[And]

You, Kalpanath Singh s/o Ramraj Singh, male, 47 years old, NRIC No1116101/D, are charged that you, on or about 21 January 1988, at No 101A, Upper Cross St, #12-17, People’s Park Centre, Singapore, did attempt to cheat one Madam Lee Sim Yow by deceiving her into believing that a sum of $5,000 was required to be paid into court as a deposit in S 2425/87 and thereby dishonestly induced the said Lee Sim Yow to deliver a sum of $5,000 to you, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under s 420 read with s 511 of the Penal Code (Cap 224).

7 Though initially acquitted by the district court on the ground that the Prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the High Court, on appeal by the Public Prosecutor, overturned the ruling of the district court on 1 September 1995 and convicted the Applicant on the said two charges (see PP v Kalpanath Singh [1995] 3 SLR 564). The Applicant was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment on each charge, and the two sentences were ordered to be served consecutively. On 17 May 1996, he was struck off the Roll. The Applicant was released from prison on 14 August 1997, after having earned one-third remission for good behaviour.

8 After his release, the Applicant entered the food and beverage business, operating from one of his properties which was left vacant during his imprisonment. In July 2001, the Applicant operated another food and beverage outlet in Little India Arcade. At the time of his maiden business venture, the Applicant was financing his son’s overseas education. He stated in his affidavit that “despite numerous setbacks, [he] persevered and worked extremely hard” and sometimes even worked up to 14 hours a day. He said that later, the management of these outlets were handed over to other people because they had become overwhelming for him. In June 2007, the Applicant relinquished his business to “focus on [his] reinstatement to the Roll”.

The Applicant’s submissions

9 The Applicant submitted that considering the nature of the offences for which he was convicted and disbarred as a result, a sufficient period of time had since elapsed. He also highlighted the fact that the offences had been committed more than twenty years ago and were the only blemishes on his otherwise spotless record. Further, he averred to cases where other lawyers guilty of more serious offences had been reinstated. Asserting that he has been rehabilitated and is now a changed man, the Applicant has adduced 19 testimonials from various people including senior members of the Bar and business acquaintances to attest to his integrity and fitness to be restored to the Roll. He also pointed out that post disbarment, he has been involved in charity work and rendered free advice to people with legal problems. Iterating his love for the law, which was underscored by the fact that he had left a distinguished career in the SPF to practise law, the Applicant stated that despite his disbarment, he has been keeping abreast of the developments in the law. He is assisted in this regard by the fact that his daughters are also lawyers.

10 Over and above these considerations, the Applicant submitted that there were three “special circumstances” in relation to his application. First, he was advanced in years – at 67 years old, any deferment of his reinstatement would effectively act as a permanent bar from re-admission. Second, restrictions and conditions could be imposed on his practising certificate (see [11] below), if deemed necessary so as to protect public interest and maintain the reputation of the legal profession. Third, the Applicant, if reinstated, would re-join his erstwhile firm, M/s Kalpanath & Co, which is now run and managed by a daughter and her husband, alongside with other independent partners. This, the Applicant submitted, would provide familial support and serve as another safeguard against him faltering.

Law Society’s position

11 At the oral hearing before this Court, whilst the Law Society did not object to the Applicant’s application to be reinstated, it did however insist upon certain conditions to be attached to the practising certificate of the Applicant should he be reinstated. In its submission, the Law Society also noted that whilst the Applicant’s offences were undeniably reprehensible, they were arguably less so than the offences committed by other lawyers who have been reinstated to the Roll.

The Attorney-General’s objection

12 The Attorney-General (“AG”), represented by the Deputy Solicitor-General (“Dy SG”), objected to the application. His arguments were three-fold: (a) that the Applicant’s offences of dishonesty were “serious” and “of the gravest kind”; (b) reinstatement of the Applicant “may” adversely affect public confidence in the legal profession; and (c) the various testimonials exhibited were “overall a patently inadequate basis” for the Court to assess whether the Applicant has been rehabilitated and should be reinstated.

13 The AG argued that the gravity of the Applicant’s offences stemmed from the fact that the sums of $10,000 were not trifling; that the Applicant had been utterly dishonest and violated the trust that is so paramount in a solicitor-client relationship, and had invoked the authority of the court in effecting his deception. All these meant that if the Applicant were to be reinstated, the public’s confidence in the legal profession would be diminished.

14 As regard the testimonials, the AG highlighted the fact that many of them were from members of the Bar who had known the Applicant for a long time. In their testimonials, these lawyers stated that they had been surprised and shocked at the material time when the Applicant was charged and convicted of the offences. The AG argued that this only meant that the Applicant had, prior to his conviction, been successful in concealing his “darker” and sinister side from his friends, and if he could have pulled wool over their eyes back then, there was “little confidence” that his friends could now be right about him. Furthermore, the AG argued that many of the references did not attest to the Applicant’s honesty and integrity, but only to other virtues which were not as pertinent in relation to an application such as this.

15 In the premises, the AG opposed the application but added that should this Court be inclined to restore...

To continue reading

Request your trial
7 cases
  • Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 November 2010
    ...v Law Society of Singapore [2008] 3 SLR (R) 1; [2008] 3 SLR 1 (refd) Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore [2009] 4 SLR (R) 1018; [2009] 4 SLR 1018 (refd) Knight Glenn Jeyasingam v Law Society of Singapore [2007] 3 SLR (R) 704; [2007] 3 SLR 704 (refd) Lim Cheng Peng, ......
  • Nathan Edmund v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 21 November 2012
    ...v Law Society of Singapore [2008] 3 SLR (R) 1; [2008] 3 SLR 1 (refd) Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore [2009] 4 SLR (R) 1018; [2009] 4 SLR 1018 (refd) Knight Glenn Jeyasingam v Law Society of Singapore [2007] 3 SLR (R) 704; [2007] 3 SLR 704 (refd) Law Society of S......
  • Law Society of Singapore v Choy Chee Yean
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 25 May 2010
    ...s/o Thamboo Mylvaganam v Law Society of Singapore [2008] 3 SLR(R) 1; and Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore [2009] 4 SLR(R) 1018). However, as Chan Sek Keong CJ, delivering the grounds of decision of this court in Knight Glenn Jeyasingam observed (at [11]–[12]): 11......
  • Chiong Chin May Selena v Attorney-General and another
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 30 June 2021
    ...conduct during the interval that she has been fully rehabilitated (see Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore [2009] 4 SLR(R) 1018 (“Kalpanath”) at [19]). To this end, the objective evidence of what she has been involved in during the interval, as well as references (p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2011, December 2011
    • 1 December 2011
    ...it would also be in the interest of society to promote redemption: see Kalpanath Singh s/o Ram Raj Singh v Law Society of Singapore[2009] 4 SLR(R) 1018 [11] supra at [23]. Except in the most egregious of offences, and we did not think that the wrongdoings of the applicant here fell within t......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT