Lawyer M. Ravi has said the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) demand for an apology was “plainly without basis”, and sought an apology from the public prosecutor to his client Gobi Avedian instead.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair on Wednesday, Mr Ravi said he did not deny making the statements specified in the AGC’s letter to him on Tuesday. But he denied the statements amounted to allegations that the public prosecutor had acted in bad faith or maliciously in prosecuting Gobi, and that he had made the statements while knowing or having reason to believe they were false.
He also disagreed that he had breached any rules by making his statements or that his conduct was improper. “We say so as there are sufficient bases for the statements to be made, both objective and subjective,” he said in his letter.
On Monday, he had told alternative news website The Online Citizen (TOC) that the prosecutor had been “overzealous” in prosecuting Gobi, which had “led to the death sentence” for his client.
This came after the five-judge Court of Appeal reversed a 2018 decision to convict Gobi on a capital charge for drug trafficking.
Mr Ravi also said, among other things, the apex court’s judgment calls into question “the fairness of the administration of justice in Gobi’s case by the prosecution”.
On Tuesday, the AGC issued a letter to him demanding he apologise for his comments and retract them unconditionally.
The AGC noted, among other things, that the Court of Appeal made no adverse findings against the public prosecutor or the prosecution of Gobi. “In fact, the Court of Appeal pointed out in the judgment that the initial decision to convict the applicant was ‘correct at the time (it was) made’ and that none of the arguments considered in the judgment ‘could have been made in view of the legal position as it was understood then’.”
But Mr Ravi countered on Wednesday that the AGC had quoted the apex court’s judgment out of context. He argued the phrase “even if” in the judgment should be understood to mean “whether or not”.
“When read in this light, it is abundantly clear the Court of Appeal did not say that its decision in (the case) was correctly decided at the material time.
“Indeed, and with the utmost respect, it would have been inappropriate for the Court of Appeal to be justifying its earlier decision ex post facto in (the review of the case), as that would have the effect of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice, ” he said.
The AGC, he added, should have been the party filing the review after an earlier case involving Nigerian Adili Chibuike Ejike, who had similarly escaped the gallows after he was cleared of drug importation charges last year.
The fact that it did not do so and went on to accuse him of abusing the court’s process when he filed the review lends support to his argument that the prosecution had been “overzealous” in defending Gobi’s conviction on the capital charge, Mr Ravi said.