Lawyer M Ravi pleaded guilty on Monday (27 November) to assaulting fellow lawyer and opposition politician Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss on 8 August this year.
The 48-year-old also admitted to attacking lawyer Nakoorsha Abdul Kadir that same day and to breaking into the office of his former employer, law firm Eugene Thuraisingam, in June this year. Both Chong and Nakoorsha are partners at Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, from which Ravi was fired from in June.
Ravi, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, will be assessed by an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist as to his suitability for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) and will be back in court on 5 January for sentencing. He is currently suspended from practising as a lawyer and was prohibited from applying for a practicing certificate for a period of two years from 27 October last year.
Dressed in a full suit, Ravi appeared in the State Courts to plead guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to Chong, 54, by pushing and charging at her, and one count of causing hurt through a rash act to Nakoorsha, 42, by throwing Chong’s handbag at his face.
Ravi also pleaded guilty to one count of breaking into the firm’s Upper Cross Street premises with another man, Lai Yew Thiam, sometime before 2.16pm on 27 June with the intention of annoying the firm’s security officer Rueben Rajandran. Lai will be in court on 7 December to submit his plea.
Four other counts, including two of causing annoyance to the public by shouting at tourists and temple staff at Sri Mariamman Temple on 31 July and 11 August this year, will be taken into consideration for Ravi’s sentencing.
Ravi had visited the law firm’s office at The Adelphi at around 10.45am on 8 August, accompanied by three members of staff from the Lawyers Alliance for Human Rights Asia (LAHRA), an organisation that he founded following his termination from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.
After the group demanded to be let into the office, Nakoorsha approached Ravi to ask what he wanted. According to the prosecution, Ravi then pointed to one of his staff members and told Nakoorsha that he was being filmed.
“Ravi did not answer Nakoorsha’s questions but rambled on incoherently about corruption and about serving papers on the firm. Nakoorsha told Ravi to serve his papers via e-mail and promptly left the scene,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sarah Ong.
As the group was leaving, the members bumped into Chong along the corridor at around 11am. Ravi then stopped Chong and began questioning her aggressively, said DPP Ong. Ravi told his staff to film the incident and post it on Facebook.
“When (Chong) tried to walk away, Ravi forcefully pushed her, charged towards her and pushed her again,” said DPP Ong. Chong stumbled and fell to the ground. At this point, Ravi said that Chong had pushed him.
While Chong was on the ground, Ravi kicked and flung her belongings about, scattering them across the ground. He also threw a shoe towards her and mocked her for being dramatic, said DPP Ong.
Nakoorsha, who was alerted to the incident, stepped outside of the office to help Chong. As Nakoorsha approached Ravi, the latter told his staff to attack Nakoorsha but they did not. Narkoosha stood between Ravi and Chong to protect her from Ravi. Ravi then threw Chong’s handbag at Nakoorsha’s face but Nakoorsha did not react.
When Chong tried to pick up her belongings, Ravi snatched the items from her and flung them at her, while accusing her of taking his things. Ravi left after several minutes of ranting. Throughout the entire incident, Ravi’s staff stood by while capturing the incident on video.
Chong, who sought medical help at a hospital, was found to have a bruise on her right hip and shoulder after the incident.
Just two weeks earlier, Ravi had attempted to break into Eugene Thuraisingam LLP’s premises at Upper Cross Street several times. The premises, which had formerly been leased out to Ravi, were taken over by the law firm as Ravi had been unable to meet his rent payments.
Eugene Thuraisingam LLP had employed Ravi as its head of knowledge management and strategic alliances, and permitted Ravi to work from the office after taking over the premises. However, the firm fired Ravi on 8 June this year and served him a notice five days later informing him that he was required to vacate the premises by noon on 16 June.
On 17 and 23 June, Ravi and Lai broke into the office while Ravi took and posted videos of the acts on Facebook. On both occasions, the police were called. Efforts made by the firm to secure its office did not deter Ravi, who broke in again on 27 June with the help of Lai.
In mitigation, Ravi’s lawyer Shashi Nathan said that his client was suffering from a relapse of his psychiatric disorder at the time of the offences.
According to Ravi’s previous psychiatrist, Ravi had not been attending his medical appointments and had not been taking his medication as prescribed. Ravi was admitted to IMH between 17 and 21 July, where he was observed to be displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder, which would have impaired his judgement, impulse control and his ability to make rational decisions.
“This is not a case of a man who committed an offence because he is prone to violent tendencies,” said Shashi, adding that Ravi is currently receiving psychiatric help and has since improved.
Ravi’s suspension from practice was the “biggest blow” to his client, who saw himself as an advocate of human rights law, said Shashi. The impact of Ravi’s suspension, together with his condition, made him act in a way which he now regrets, he added.
“He hopes to come back into the practice and stand before the court,” said Shashi.
Addressing the court, Ravi said, “I was mortified upon the recovery of my medical condition, upon realising the gravity of my actions as I was able to appreciate the seriousness of my offences.”
Ravi also apologised to Sri Mariamman Temple, adding that his actions were “out of character”.
His latest offences follow a string of similar acts dating back to early 2000. He was fined $700 for disorderly behaviour in 2004 and fined a total of $8,000 in 2009 on charges of disturbing an assembly engaged in religious worship, mischief and using insulting words.