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District Judge Chng Lai Beng contradicted himself in court today in the on-going trial of Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan, and Ms Chee Siok Chin.
The three are charged with taking part in an assembly without a permit. They were distributing flyers announcing the protest that was to be held during the WB-IMF meeting in Singapore in 2006.
It started when the Prosecution said that they had video footage of the activists distributing flyers at Raffles City outside the City Hall MRT Station on 10 Sep 06. Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Anandan Bala, however, said that he may consider introducing the footage as evidence later in the trial if the need arises.
The defendants said that if the DPP has video evidence, he should produce it instead of relying on police eyewitnesses. This is more accurate and efficient than relying on the officers’ memory of events especially when the incident took place more than 2 years ago.
But the DPP refused to tender the video as evidence.
The defendants turned to Judge Chng and applied for the video to be produced.
The Judge said that he could not force the Prosecution to produce the evidence. “It is the prerogative of the Prosecution to present its evidence as it sees fit,” Judge Chng noted, “its case will stand or fall according to the evidence it submits.”
Ms Chee Siok Chin pressed the Judge on this issue to which he replied: “I don’t know by what law I can force the Prosecution to produce this video.”
On hearing that, Ms Chee relented saying that the Judge was the expert and that he would know best.
Later, upon checking the Evidence Act it was discovered that Section 167(1) states that: “The Judge may, in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts,…order the production of any document or thing…”
Following the lunch break, Dr Chee pointed out to the Judge that contrary to what he stated earlier, the court clearly had the power to direct the Prosecution to produce the video to show proof of the relevant facts.
Ms Chee reminded the Judge what he had said earlier about not being able to direct the Prosecution to produce the evidence: “Clearly this is not true as Section 167 shows.”
“I will not respond to this,” Judge Chng replied.
Dr Chee added: “We are concerned because you had told us that there was no law that empowered you to compel the Prosecution to produce the video evidence, when in fact there is.”
“We had stood guided by you because as Ms Chee had said that she deferred to you because you were the expert and we are laypersons. Now we discover that you had said something diametrically opposite of the law.”
Judge Chng then replied: “This is an adversarial system. My ruling stands.”
Unsure what that comment meant the defendants persisted, indicating that they were not taking issue with the Judge’s decision not to direct the Prosecution to produce the video evidence but were concerned that the Judge had indicated something that was not true.
At this point, Judge Chng denied that he had said that he did not have the power to direct the Prosecution to produce the evidence.
Dr Chee asked the Judge to read back his notes that he had recorded earlier. “I did not say what you say I said,” Judge Chng insisted.
He brushed the matter aside saying that he did not want to continue talking about it as it was not relevant to the case. He then ordered the hearing to proceed.
The hearing continues tomorrow in Subordinate Court No 19 at 9:30 am.