PUTRAJAYA (May 27): Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram can continue to lead the prosecution as a senior deputy public prosecutor in Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor's corruption trial linked to the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project, as the Federal Court has dismissed her final appeal to recuse him from the case.
This was the unanimous decision of a three-member panel on Friday (May 27), led by Justice Datuk Seri Mohd Zawawi Mohd Salleh, which also ruled that there are no provisions under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) that empower a criminal court to grant the relief she applied for to declare her trial a nullity.
"We are in agreement with the reason conferred by the Court of Appeal (COA). We are of the opinion that there is no inherent [jurisdiction] of the criminal court to grant declaratory relief," he said.
"The CPC is a complete and comprehensive law relating to the procedures in criminal proceedings. Therefore, the question that the criminal court has powers to grant the relief does not arise at all," he said.
He added that there are laws such as the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 which confers the inherent powers to the civil court.
The others on the panel were Justice Datuk Vernon Ong and Justice Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.
Rosmah was appealing against the COA's decision made on Dec 6 last year, when the court ruled that a criminal court does not have the jurisdiction to grant similar declarations sought by Rosmah. Rosmah was appealing against the High Court's decision in dismissing her application to disqualify Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in her graft trial, and to annul the ongoing trial proceedings.
The High Court had, on Sept 24, dismissed her application on the grounds that Sri Ram's appointment by then attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was done validly under Section 376(3) of the CPC.
In the apex court on Friday, Rosmah was represented by counsels Datuk Jagjit Singh and Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader, while Sri Ram appeared for the prosecution.
Rosmah is charged with soliciting a RM187.5 million bribe out of the RM1.25 billion project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, which was awarded to then Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, between January and April 2016 through her aide Datuk Rizal Mansor.
The wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also faces two charges of receiving a total of RM6.5 million — RM1.5 million and RM5 million from Saidi between Dec 20, 2016 and Sept 7, 2017 — at her official residence in Seri Perdana, Putrajaya and also her private residence in Jalan Langgak Duta.
High Court Judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan has fixed July 7 to deliver his verdict in Rosmah's graft trial.
Meanwhile, prior to delivering its final verdict on her appeals to recuse Sri Ram and nullify the trial, the Federal Court panel also unanimously struck out Rosmah's application to stay the proceedings of her trial on the grounds that the matter had become academic as the trial is over.
At the time, Justice Mohd Zawawi asked Akberdin if he was seeking a stay of the High Court's decision. Akberdin answered in the affirmative, saying it was subject to Rosmah's appeals being allowed.
Sri Ram then countered that it was not a "proper exercise" to stop the criminal court from delivering its decision.
Sri Ram was allowed to argue the matter after the apex court bench earlier dismissed Rosmah's objection to him doing so, saying it found no merit to the defence's contention that Sri Ram had a conflict of interest in the case.