PUTRAJAYA (June 9): The Court of Appeal today deferred the hearing of an appeal for a judicial review made by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to challenge the appointment of Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram as the lead prosecutor in Najib's 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) case, which was scheduled for this month, to Sept 23.

The decision was made by Court of Appeal (COA) deputy registrar Mariam Hasanah Othman following case management that was called up today.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, when contacted by theedgemarkets.com, confirmed the date of the hearing of both appeals to be Sept 23.

Najib and Shafee earlier filed criminal challenges against Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, from leading the prosecution team, but failed in the application and appeal up to the Federal Court.

Both also filed civil challenges to the appointment where the High Court initially rejected leave and the decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal only for the Federal Court to grant leave and remitted the case back to the High Court.

On hearing the merits of the application, Justice Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya (now a COA judge) on Aug 28 last year dismissed a civil action by them to remove Sri Ram from prosecuting them.

Justice Mariana, who took one and a half hours to deliberate on the issue, said the appointment of the former Federal Court judge as a senior deputy public prosecutor (DPP) by then Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was valid.

“The court must not interfere unless we find that the AG misdirected himself in law or that his decision did not follow the statute. There is no evidence that the AG misdirected himself in law. Hence, the court rules there should not be annullity in Sri Ram's appointment. The application is dismissed with costs,” Mariana said.

The court ordered Najib and Shafee to each pay RM10,000 in costs.

In arriving at her decision, she also compared Sri Ram's appointment with Shafee's appointment made in the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sodomy II case, which was done on the same provisions under Section 376(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, and said the appellate court found that Shafee's appointment in that case was legal.

She said hence, similarly, Sri Ram's appointment under that same law is also legal.

Hence, this appeal was made before the COA. Initially, the hearing of the appeal was scheduled for June 17 but it was deferred today.

At present, Sri Ram is prosecuting Najib in the 1MDB-Tanore trial and the 1MDB audit tampering trial. Shafee's case, however, is not handled by Sri Ram, as DPP Afzainizam Abdul Hamid is leading the case.

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