Malaysian Lawyer Disbarred In Brunei
Mr Manjeet Singh Dhillon, 65, a veteran lawyer with 38 years of practice in Malaysia was admitted on an ad hoc basis to represent Mr Wong Tim Kai in a corruption trial in Brunei.
At the time of his petition for the ad hoc admission in November 2004, Mr Dhillon failed to mention the fact that he was found guilty in contempt of court by the Supreme Court of Malaysia in November 1990 and was fined RM5000 for the conviction.
In November 2006, while the corruption trial was ongoing, Mr Wong Tim Kai filed an application to the High Court seeking to en force his right to a counsel of his choice and that having chosen Mr Dhillon to represent him, for his counsel who was "properly admitted to the Brunei Bar" to have a 'right of audience' and to have conduct of Mr Wong's defence.
According to a press statement from the Attorney General Chamber yesterday, the application was first heard by the Chief Justice at the High Court who dismissed the application and ordered the removal of the lawyer's name from the roll of advocates and solicitors of Brunei. Following the decision, Mr Wong launched an appeal against it.
During the hearing before the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General of Brunei argued that Mr Dhillon's failure to disclose the conviction and fine imposed by the Malaysian Supreme Court in November 1990, called into question whether he had been "properly admitted" at all.
Ahmad Jefri Abd Rahman and Nurhayana Janis Abdullah Lim represented the Attorney General while Mr Balwant Sidhu and Rudi Lee appeared for the appellant.
In his defense, Mr Dhillon through his lawyer said that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead or to withhold facts and that the conviction was at the "back, not forefront of Mr Dhillon's mind and it had never occurred to him that he should make disclosure" of the conviction.
The Court of Appeal however, found no merit in the reasons advanced to explain or excuse Mr Dhillon's failure to disclose the conviction.
It was emphasised that an applicant for admission to the roll of advocates and solicitors was obliged to do so with "utmost good faith and candour, comprehensively disclosing any matter which may reasonably be taken to bear on an assessment of fitness to practice".
The Court of Appeal also further noted that the "primacy of the pro-active obligation of an applicant to make candid, comprehensive disclosure".
The judges noted that Mr. Dhillon's curriculum vitae that were submitted to support his application was designed to "clearly put forward Mr. Dhillon as an advocate whose career was without a blemish".
The CV detailed an extensive career of Mr Dhillon as Counsel of the Malaysian Bar from 1970 to 2004 as well as his activities and publications. There, however, was no mention of the contempt on November 5, 1990.
Judges found that Mr Dhillon in his affidavit in July 2007 had been "less frank with the Court" when he stated that "he had never been censured or had any form of disciplinary action instituted against him".
Contempt of court by an advocate is on its face a serious offence and should have been disclosed at the time of applying for admission to the roll of advocates and solicitors.(Brudirect.com)