Ram Goswami v Public Prosecutor

Judgment Date25 October 1984
Date25 October 1984
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 106 of 1983
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Ram Goswami
Public Prosecutor

[1984] SGHC 32

Wee Chong Jin CJ

Magistrate's Appeal No 106 of 1983

High Court

Courts and Jurisdiction–Contempt of court–Civil contempt–Counsel applied to court for discharge when clients failed to give instructions and pay agreed fees–Whether counsel's conduct amounted to contempt–Whether summary power to punish for contempt properly exercised

The appellant was an advocate and solicitor who agreed to represent two persons (“the clients”) at a trial in the District Court. The oral contract was for payment of a retainer by the clients, which was to be paid before the trial commenced and a refresher for each day or part thereof after the first day (“the agreed sum”). The clients only paid part of the agreed sum by the first day of trial.

Subsequently, the trial was adjourned twice before the district judge adjourned the trial a third time to 25 June 1983 to consider the clients' submission of no case to answer. The balance of the agreed sum was not paid throughout this time. The appellant informed the clients that if the balance was not paid before 25 June 1983, he would apply to court on that day for his discharge and ask for further instructions in case they were called upon to make their defence.

On 25 June 1983, the appellant applied for a week's adjournment or alternatively for a discharge. He informed the court that his clients failed to give him instructions since the last hearing and failed to pay the agreed fees despite repeated promises to do so.

The district judge refused his application and found him in contempt of court, requiring him to show cause. The appellant reiterated his grounds for applying for his discharge and apologised to the court. The district judge rejected his explanation and meted a fine of $500. The appellant appealed.

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) The appellant's conduct did not go so far beyond the limits of non-cooperation or refusal to comply with the court's direction or discourtesy as to harden into contempt of court. The appellant had not intended to delay or hinder the trial of the accused: at [16].

(2) In exercising the power of summary punishment given to the judge under s 8 of the Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 14, 1970 Rev Ed), the judge should bear in mind that it is to be exercised by the judge of his own motion only when it is urgent and imperative to act immediately. Otherwise, the judge would be usurping the role of the prosecutor. In the present case, the power should not have been exercised when the appellant had apologised for his conduct: at [16]and [17].

Balogh v St Albans Crown Court [1975] QB 73 (refd)

Joseph Orakwue Izuora v The Queen [1953] AC 327 (folld)

Parashuram Detaram Shamdasani v King Emperor [1945] AC 264 (folld)

Weston v Central Criminal Court, Courts Administrator [1977] QB 32 (folld)

Subordinate Courts Act (Cap 14, 1970 Rev Ed)s 8

J Grimberg (Drew & Napier) for the appellant

Loke Yoon Kee (Deputy Public Prosecutor) for the respondent

T Q Lim (T Q Lim & Co) as amicus curiae.

Wee Chong Jin CJ

1 The appellant is an advocate and solicitor. He was convicted by a District Court under s 8 of the Subordinate Courts Act and sentenced to a fine of $500. He now appeals against the conviction and sentence. The circumstances which resulted in his conviction for contempt in the face of the court can be briefly stated.

2 The appellant had agreed to represent two persons who were charged with an offence under the Women's Charter before a District Court. The oral contract was for payment of a retainer by each client which was to be paid before the trial commenced and a refresher for each day or part thereof after the first day. The trial commenced...

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1 cases
  • You Xin v Public Prosecutor and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 July 2007
    ...6 Term Rep 527; 101 ER 684 (refd) R v Thomson Newspapers Ltd, Ex parte Attorney-General [1968] 1 WLR 1 (folld) Ram Goswami v PP [1983-1984] SLR (R) 694; [1984-1985] SLR 478 (folld) Tan Khee Eng John, Re [1997] 1 SLR (R) 870; [1997] 3 SLR 382 (refd) Weston v Central Criminal Court Courts Adm......

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