Ashin Singh’s advocate says state guilty too

2009-03-02 00:00

If local magistrate Ashin Singh was guilty of “dirty tricks” and leaking documents to the press then so was the state, his advocate argued in a case in which the state is seeking a punitive cost order against Singh in connection with his bid to intervene in the Jacob Zuma case last year.

Judge Chris Nicholson has heard arguments presented by advocate Chris Marnewick, SC, for the state and Cameron Hunt, SC, for Singh arising from Singh’s application to intervene in the Zuma trial as an amicus curiae (friend of the court), in order to lead evidence that the Zuma trial state advocate Billy Downer, SC, was unfit to prosecute.

Singh gave notice on September 5 last year that he had withdrawn the application, but the state did not accept that he was entitled to do so and set the matter down for argument yesterday.

The state urged Nicholson — due to the “serious and defamatory” nature of the allegations levelled by Singh against Downer and others — to give a judgment dismissing Singh’s application and thereby ensure that he cannot revive it again in the future.

Marnewick told Nicholson that it is the state’s view that Singh was guilty of an abuse of the process of court and had “ulterior motives” for bringing the application, which was “hopeless from the start”. He said Singh accused Downer of being dishonest and suggested he would “wilfully mislead the court”. The state had to respond to these allegations otherwise the world at large would go on thinking this was so and that Zuma would not get a fair trial with Downer as prosecutor.

“Can one say anything more scurrilous against a senior advocate than what was said [by Singh]?” he said.

He said Singh’s application papers were not served for more than a month after “rumours” began circulating over his intention to bring such an application and said the papers were first leaked to the press by Singh.

In reply, advocate Hunt for Singh said that Singh had the right to unilaterally withdraw his application without seeking the leave of the court or the opposing parties, and said alternatively he was asking the court for leave to withdraw the application. Hunt submitted that it would not be proper for Nicholson to dismiss the application as this would be tantamount to compelling Singh to proceed with the application.

He said the suggestion that Singh had an “axe to grind” did not disqualify him from applying to court as an amicus curiae.

Hunt said the state accused Singh of leaking information to the press, but had done exactly the same thing by making available to the media information arising from the state’s opposing documents in the case.

Judgment was reserved.

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