PUTRAJAYA, 13 April 2009: Come 17 April, the Court of Appeal will decide, for the first time, whether it can review its own decision which restored a former national athletics coach’s conviction and four-year imprisonment for molesting two underage athletes in 1992.
Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Ram, who sat together with justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha, set the date after hearing submissions from C Ramanathan’s counsel, Karpal Singh, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Jamhirah Ali.
Ramanathan, 73, is seeking for the court to review the previous panel’s decision on 11 July last year, on his conviction and four-year imprisonment for molesting two underage athletes imposed by the Sessions Court on 8 Nov 1996.
Earlier, Karpal submitted that the court had implicit powers to review its own decision to achieve the dual objectives of an appellate court to correct wrong decisions.
Karpal said, it was because the previous panel — in allowing the prosecution’s appeal to restore the conviction and jail term imposed on Ramanathan by the Sessions Court — just relied on the submission of the delay of the court judgment.
“We are not giving the opportunity to argue on the merit of the case at the Court of Appeal during the appeal,” he added.
Sri Ram then asked Jamhirah whether there was a breach of natural justice in the Court of Appeal’s previous decision based on the delay of the judgment, without hearing the merits of the case.
Jamhirah replied that the court had scrutinised the submissions of the delay of the judgment before coming to the decision.
“But, you never give the appellant an opportunity to argue on the merits of the case. He (Ramanathan) must be given the opportunity,” said Sri Ram.
On 11 July last year, Ramanathan was sent to the Kajang Prison to serve his four-year jail term after the Court of Appeal ordered him to undergo the jail terms.
The prosecution appealed at the Court of Appeal after the High Court set aside the Sessions Court’s decision and acquitted him after ruling that the trial judge had delayed in writing the grounds of judgment.
Judge Umi Kalthum found Ramanathan guilty and sentenced him to four years jail on each of two charges of molesting the junior athletes at Maba House here between 23 and 27 Oct 1992. Both sentences were to run concurrently.
The athletes, then aged 15 and 16, were attending centralised training for the Asian Junior Athletics Championship in New Delhi. — Bernama