Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date06 July 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGHC 173
Docket NumberOriginating Motion No 600005 of
Date06 July 2001
Year2001
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselDavinder Singh SC and Ajay Advani (Drew & Napier)
Citation[2001] SGHC 173
Defendant CounselAsanthi S Mendis (State Counsel),Lok Vi Ming (Rodyk & Davidson)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterAdmission,Five years since striking off order,Protection of public's and profession's interest over interests of applicant,Restoration to roll of advocates and solicitors,Applicant struck off roll,Applicant previously convicted on charges of corruption and criminal breach of trust,Legal Profession,Nature of offences,Whether sufficient time elapsing for application to be made

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court):

Introduction

This was an application by the abovenamed Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh (`the applicant`) to have his name replaced on the roll of advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore pursuant to s 102(1) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 2000 Ed) (`the LPA`). We dismissed the application and now give our reasons.

Brief facts

The applicant was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore on 8 November 1989. He began his career as a legal assistant in Assomull, Pereira & Partners, and thereafter moved on to Gurdaib, Cheong & Narmal and became partner in the latter firm from 31 July 1993.

On 3 September 1993, the applicant was convicted, after a trial in the district court, of three charges of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act and one charge of criminal breach of trust (`CBT`) under the Penal Code.
The applicant was found to have offered corruptly gratification of $5,000 to one Aziz, a police officer, as an inducement for letting off one Tan, who had engaged the applicant as defence counsel, from the police investigations into several housebreaking offences. In addition, the applicant was also found to have solicited and received corruptly $5,000 as gratification from Tan for his assistance in the scheme. In relation to the CBT charge, the applicant was found to have misappropriated a sum of $500 belonging to the firm of Assomull, Pereira & Partners, while he was employed there as a legal assistant. The applicant was sentenced to a total of 18 months` imprisonment and fined a sum of $5,000 for his offences. He paid the fine, served the term of imprisonment, and on account of his good behaviour was released on 19 October 1994.

A Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society of Singapore (`the Law Society`) was subsequently appointed by the Chief Justice, upon the application of the Council of the Law Society, to investigate the applicant`s conduct pertaining to his criminal convictions.
The applicant admitted to the charges against him before the Disciplinary Committee. On 30 August 1995, the Disciplinary Committee concluded its investigation and found that sufficient cause existed for disciplinary action to be taken against the applicant. Accordingly, the Law Society applied for an order requiring the applicant to show cause why he should not be dealt with under s 83(1) of the LPA.

At the show cause proceedings before the court of three judges on 1 December 1995, the applicant indicated that he did not intend to show cause but wished only to raise some matters in mitigation in order that the court could determine the appropriate penalty.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court ordered that the applicant be struck off the roll of advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore: see Law Society of Singapore v Narmal Singh [1996] 2 SLR 184 . After a lapse of some five years, the applicant, on 3 April 2001, filed the present application seeking an order under s 102 of the LPA that his name be replaced on the roll of advocates and solicitors.

The present application

The provisions of s 102 of the LPA are as follows:

(1) The court may, if it thinks fit, at any time order the Registrar to replace on the roll the name of a solicitor whose name has been removed from, or struck off, the roll.

(2) Any application that the name of a solicitor be replaced on the roll shall be by originating motion, supported by affidavit, before a court of 3 Judges of the Supreme Court of whom the Chief Justice shall be one.

(3) Notice of the motion shall be served on the Society which shall -

(a) appear at the hearing of the motion; and

(b) place before the court a report which shall include -

(i) copies of the record of any proceedings as the result of which the name of the solicitor was removed from or struck off the roll; and

(ii) a statement of any facts which have occurred since the name of the solicitor was removed from or struck off the roll and which in the opinion of the Council or any member of the Council are relevant to be considered or to be investigated in connection with the application.



Mr Davinder Singh for the applicant made an impassioned plea before us.
He submitted that it had been eight years since the applicant ceased his legal practice, and some five years and four months since he was struck off the roll. After his release from prison, the applicant was actively engaged in various charity works, and was gainfully employed as a business development manager and subsequently, as the head of administration in a company, where he handled large sums of money in the course of his work. In addition, he was, presently, diligently studying for and pursuing as an external postgraduate degree of Master of Law at the University of London. Throughout all these years, he had steered clear of any brushes with the law. All these, counsel argued, showed that the applicant was fully repentant and rehabilitated. He had paid a three-fold price for his past misdeeds, which counsel described as follows: first, he was made to suffer the shame and stigma of his conviction, the sheer ignominy of which alone must have been extremely difficult to bear given that he had himself been a senior police inspector; second, he had had to endure the disgrace and dishonour, which his striking-off brought not only to himself but also his family, and finally, he had had to face the humiliation of his peers in his small, but extremely close-knit Sikh community. The hard lesson he learnt from his acts of folly rendered it most unlikely that the applicant would repeat his offences again. His conduct and good deeds in the past few years exemplified that he was now a changed man, one in whom honour and integrity resided. In support of this, numerous accompanying testimonials from the applicant`s current employer, the head of his religious organisation and senior members of the Bar, attesting to his good character, trustworthiness and sense of responsibility as well as asserting their confidence in his fitness for restoration, were tendered. In counsel`s submission, it was not so much the length of time which had elapsed since an applicant had been struck off which was pertinent, but rather whether the facts showed that there was still a risk to the public and the profession, if the applicant was allowed back into practice.

Ms Asanthi S Mendis, State Counsel representing the Attorney General, opposed the application on two main grounds: first, it was argued that the application was premature in that an insufficient amount of time had elapsed since the applicant was struck off the rolls; and second, that the nature of the offences for which the applicant was struck off were of such nature and gravity as to render a five-year period of disbarment inadequate.
Mr Lok Vi Ming for the Law Society informed the court that there were no material facts which had...

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14 cases
  • Knight Glenn Jeyasingam v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • July 6, 2007
    ...making such an application: Re Chan Chow Wang [1982-1983] SLR 413; Re Lim Cheng Peng [1987] SLR 486; Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh [2001] 3 SLR 608 (“Re Nirmal Singh”); and Re Gnaguru s/o Thamboo Mylvaganam [2004] SGHC 12 The reason for this rule is that under s 83(1) of the LPA, the maxi......
  • Narindar Singh Kang v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • September 7, 2007
    ...making such an application: Re Chan Chow Wang [1982-1983] SLR 413; Re Lim Cheng Peng [1987] SLR 486; Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh [2001] 3 SLR 608 (“Re Nirmal Singh”); and Re Gnaguru s/o Thamboo Mylvaganam [2004] SGHC The reason for this rule is that under s 83(1) of the [Act], the maxim......
  • Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • November 12, 2010
    ...(refd) Narindar Singh Kang v Law Society of Singapore [2007] 4 SLR (R) 641; [2007] 4 SLR 641 (refd) Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh, Re [2001] 2 SLR (R) 494; [2001] 3 SLR 608 (refd) Ram Kishan, Re [1992] 1 SLR (R) 260; [1992] 1 SLR 529 (refd) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161,2001 Rev Ed) ss 83 (1......
  • Gnaguru s/o Thamboo Mylvaganam v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • February 29, 2008
    ...(refd) Narindar Singh Kang v Law Society of Singapore [2007] 4 SLR (R) 641; [2007] 4 SLR 641 (refd) Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh, Re [2001] 2 SLR (R) 494; [2001] 3 SLR 608 (refd) Ram Kishan, Re [1992] 1 SLR (R) 260; [1992] 1 SLR 529 (refd) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161,1990 Rev Ed)ss 83 (1)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2004, December 2004
    • December 1, 2004
    ...roll compared with a solicitor who has been struck off for dishonest conduct which is less serious: see Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh[2001] 3 SLR 608, discussed in ‘Legal Profession’(2001) 2 SAL Ann Rev 338 at para 18.41ff. 18.29 The second reported case, Law Society of Singapore v Ezekie......
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2001, December 2001
    • December 1, 2001
    ...and solicitor to the roll cannot be understood without reference to the disciplinary sentencing law. Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh[2001] 3 SLR 608, decided in the year under review, furnished proof of this. “Disbarment” is certainly not for life and when a period of time has elapsed, a pe......
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2007, December 2007
    • December 1, 2007
    ...at 533 spoke of ensuring that the reinstated applicant would be a person of ‘integrity and honour’. In Re Nirmal Singh s/o Fauja Singh[2001] 3 SLR 608 also protection from errant lawyers and serious harm which such lawyers could inflict was stressed. In neither instance, was anything more s......

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