SINGAPORE — The Court of Appeal on Friday (16 October) threw out a drug trafficker’s “patently unmeritorious” bid to review his case in an attempt to escape the gallows.
In dismissing Syed Suhail Syed Zin’s application, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang said that finality is a fundamental part of the legal system, without which “dissatisfied litigants could (and probably would) bring repeated applications to the courts”.
“Judicial decisions must confer certainty and stability and it is impossible to have a properly functioning legal system if legal decisions are open to ‘constant and unceasing challenge’,” he noted.
“Indeed, it cannot be the case that a dissatisfied litigant could bring repeated applications until the desired outcome is achieved. If so, that would be the very perversion of justice and fairness and would make a mockery of the rule of law,” he said.
The judge added that lawyers should discourage clients from repeatedly bringing “patently unmeritorious applications” before the court.
The court – which also comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash – said it will not hesitate to dismiss such applications at an earlier stage of leave in future.
About the case
Suhail, 44, received the mandatory death penalty in December 2015 for trafficking in not less than 38.84g of heroin. He was arrested in 2011 with the drugs in his room and claimed that all of it was for his personal consumption, although he admitted to having sold drugs in May that year.
The apex court dismissed his appeal in October 2018. Among other things, it considered that Suhail never mentioned to investigators that the drugs were for his own use; the evidence did not point to his alleged consumption of 12g to 18g of heroin per day; and that his text messages revealed he was in dire need of money.
On 8 September, the President ordered that Suhail’s sentence be carried out on 18 September. But on 17 September, Suhail’s lawyer M Ravi made a last ditch application to the apex court to review the case both on sentence and conviction.
At a hearing on 22 September, Ravi also argued that entire corp of prosecutors at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) were conflicted from addressing the court because the AGC had come across a letter by Suhail to his then-lawyer Ramesh Tiwary and four letters by Suhail to his uncle. The prison service had forwarded the letters.
But the AGC team clarified that they did not view those letters and the apex court found no basis to disqualify the team.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate that this is not the appropriate way to raise such issues before the court. There was an emotive quality to the submissions that were being advanced, but a court is bound to deal with such matters only on established legal principles,” said the apex court.
Apart from the unsuccessful review application, Ravi has also filed a judicial review application on Suhail’s behalf, arguing that his previously scheduled execution ahead of others on death row is unconstitutional. The case is scheduled to be heard next Friday.
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