Lawyer M Ravi has been discharged from a lawsuit linked to 13 bus drivers suing SBS Transit due to his "embarrassing behaviour at trial", according to his client.
CNA reported these new developments -- citing documents from Chua Qwong Meng, a former bus driver involved in the case -- after Ravi's actions during the first day of the trial.
"We were very embarrassed by M Ravi's behaviour towards Justice Audrey Lim and opposing counsel Mr Davinder Singh after the trial started," Chua said.
First day of trial
The lawsuit was filed over a dispute between the bus drivers and the operator about working hours and overtime pay. The first day of the trial was on Nov. 22.
Chua started his lawsuit in September 2019, and another 12 drivers are linked to the case.
He alleged that SBS Transit did not give him a rest day each week, and he was also allegedly underpaid for overtime work.
However, controversy erupted during the court proceedings, which were held by video.
The Straits Times reported that Ravi accused High Court judge Audrey Lim of being biased and demanded that she disqualify herself from hearing the case.
The fracas began when the lawyers, Ravi and Davinder Singh, representing SBS Transit, were given time to discuss issues related to a particular witness. This included when the witness would be testifying.
Ravi then told Singh, "don't be a clown, just e-mail", and said he wanted to visit the toilet.
When Lim returned to the video call, Singh informed her that Ravi had called him a "clown" and said they were unable to discuss the issue.
Ravi denied this and asked the judge if she was interrogating him. Ravi also accused Singh of preventing him from "answering nature's call".
Chua's attempt to give testimony
Chua, who was present at Ravi's office, then appeared on the video call to give testimony.
However, Ravi disappeared from the call and loud voices could be heard, according to ST.
Singh explained that he had sent a colleague to Ravi's office to sit in while Chua testified. He said he had earlier written to Ravi about this, and Ravi "did not disagree".
However, the colleague had been asked to leave and Ravi said a police report would be made against him.
Ravi said the presence of Singh's colleague was "shocking" and a breach of privileged information due to documents laid out in the room.
Lim said Singh's colleague was present to ensure that Chua would give evidence "without notes", and that this has been done before without objection. Ravi also could have a colleague sit in at Singh's office when SBS Transit witnesses were testifying.
Lim gave Ravi two choices, either have Singh's colleague in the room behind Chua, so the lawyer cannot see the documents, or set up the camera such that it was clear that no one else was in the room with Chua.
Ravi's accusation of bias
Instead of choosing either of the options, Ravi told Lim that her direction was wrong, and that he was applying for her to disqualify herself.
"You are biased because you asked Mr Singh's lawyer to come to my office," he said.
Lim declined to recuse herself, and Ravi said he would be filing a notice of appeal.
Ravi then interrupted Lim asking the Mandarin interpreter to explain the situation to Chua, and the judge asked him not to interrupt.
Ravi said, "You are not above me," to which Lim said, "I'm aware we are all human beings."
Ravi then told the judge that he was discharging himself.
"Mr Chua doesn't trust any other lawyer in Singapore... I'm not participating in these proceedings. You can pass whatever judgment you want. I'm retiring soon."
After Lim gave Ravi some time to speak to Chua, and upon resumption of the hearing, Ravi said, "I would like to discharge ourselves from this case... My client said he doesn't have faith in the system."
Ravi then claimed that the proceedings have been "irreversibly tainted" and there was supposedly a breach of the right to a fair trial.
Lim said she would read the written submissions relating to Ravi's application to discharge himself over the weekend, to which Ravi said that he was bipolar and was handling many cases.
According to ST, Lim asked if Chua was withdrawing his case.
Ravi replied, "He's withdrawing not in terms of the normal withdrawal. He does not want to participate any more in these unlawful proceedings."
Ravi added that he would be asking "Dr Mahathir" for help (which could mean he was referring to former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad) as most of the drivers are Malaysian, and said he would be filing a case with the International Court of Justice.
Chua: We do not condone Ravi's behaviour
In his statement to the press on Nov. 23, according to CNA, Chua refuted Ravi's claim that he no longer wants to participate in the proceedings.
"There was no truth whatsoever to M Ravi's allegation, which he made yesterday that we have no faith in the Singapore judicial system, and that we do not intend to proceed with the case...
We have every intention to proceed with the litigation. We shall now look for a competent lawyer to represent us in the proceedings."
Chua also said there was no justification or excuse for Ravi to call Singh a "clown."
Chua said that Ravi has been paid more than S$55,000, raised through donations from the public.
He added, "What he displayed yesterday was a total shock to us, who had put our trust in him. He has let us down very badly and hurt our case immeasurably," and said that he and the other drivers do not condone Ravi's behaviour.
Top image from M Ravi's Facebook page.
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