The Federal Court has refused Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s application to postpone his final appeal involving the SRC International case.
For context, the learned counsel for the appellant (Datuk Seri Najib Razak) had moved to adjourn the hearing of the appeals to a later date in three to four months on the basis that he and his team have only recently taken over and that the appeals – spanning tens of thousands of documents – disclose strong serious points to be canvassed and that his team be given adequate opportunity to do a good job.
In the words of the court, “To put it bluntly, the defence seeks an adjournment of these appeals for the simple reason that they are not prepared.”
The application to postpone the appeal was denied because “the fixing of the dates of this appeal has been known from as far back as the case management in April, which is some four months ago.” The court had also pointed out that “the minutes also state that the Court reminded parties, no less than four times, that the appeals will proceed as scheduled notwithstanding the change in solicitors.”
With this in mind, “the appellant having been well aware of the dates fixed for hearing elected to discharge his former solicitors and appoint Messrs. Zaid Ibrahim and Tuan Haji Hisyam Teh as his solicitors and counsel respectively. This is his right to do so but he cannot, after having made that decision, turn around and say that his new lawyers are not ready to proceed with the hearing of the appeals. The new lawyers too, having accepted the brief, are not entitled to say they need more time to prepare knowing fully well that the dates had been fixed well in advance.” It is thus clear to the court that Najib’s decision to change counsel at the last minute was done with full knowledge of the dates that have been fixed for hearing.
Therefore, “Given the circumstances we have outlined, the request for the adjournment and the grounds in support thereof are neither cogent nor reasonable.”
Besides, the court held that “considerable public funds would be wasted if granting an adjournment in a case of this kind was an easier option. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and the Rule of Law demand that the appellant be treated just like any other accused. As such,… while the appellant is entitled to his right to change his counsel, he is not entitled to make this choice at the expense of the Court, the prosecution or the entire justice system.”
In addition, the court also stated that “the time taken on this case, especially the number of days fixed for hearing means many other criminal cases and accused persons have had to wait their turn for their appeals to be heard. Justice delayed in this case is also justice denied to other accused persons.”
In short, the application was refused because although he has the right to change counsel, he cannot postpone the appeal on the reason that his new lawyers are not ready as it would come at the expense of the court and the other accused persons. It would also delay justice and justice delayed is justice denied.
“For these reasons, the appellant’s motion to adjourn and vacate these appeals for a period of at least three to four months is unanimously refused.”