KOTA KINABALU September 10, 2012: The Sabah Law Association (SLA) and its members have had a hectic year considering the numerous changes made to the law and procedures regulating the legal fraternity.
Among the several changes effected were e-filing which was introduced in the courts, as well as the new Rules of the Court 2012 which have been enforced, according to SLA president G.B.B Nandy @ Gaanesh.
In his speech at the association’s 39th annual dinner on Saturday, Gaanesh said that for those involved in criminal work, the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code such as the new provisions contained in Section 172A and 172G and others have radically changed the conduct of criminal trials as new concepts, such as pre-trial process, plea bargain and victim impact statements, were introduced.
According to the president, SLA has drafted new rules namely the new Inquiry Committee Rules and the Website Rules which have received the consent of the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum to be enacted, with the concurrence of the State Attorney General.
“It is expected that the provisions of these new rules would come into force sometime in the middle of this month. The new Inquiry Committee will constitute nine members and a panel of three members will be empowered to conduct any inquiry relating to complaints of misconduct of advocates.
“With the enlargement of the committee members to nine, it is anticipated that complaints can be disposed of faster,” Gaanesh said, adding that SLA is also in the process of drafting new rules for strict compliance of the no-discount rules that came into force on October 1, 2010.
He further said that SLA has introduced the National Legal Aid Foundation which will provide legal aid to those arrested but unable to afford to engage the service of a counsel in the event that they claim trial within the jurisdictional areas of Kota Kinabalu, Papar, Penampang and Tuaran.
It is limited to these four areas because the association is hampered by numerous constraints, among others, to obtain the services of lawyers to voluntarily represent suspects or accused persons, apart from the fact that the association having limited resources to employ staff to coordinate the operation of the legal aid scheme in Sabah, he said.
SLA, he said, is also in the process of revamping the Practice and Etiquette course being conducted for pupils intending to be called to the Sabah Bar and to ensure that they would be exposed to the laws peculiar to Sabah such as the Sabah Land Ordinance and the Sabah Limitation Ordinance.
“To maintain the quality of those called to the Bar, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak has made it compulsory on them to pass an interview where they would be asked questions related to the local laws of Sabah, ethics and other areas of practice.
“SLA is in the process of finalising the draft amendments to the Advocates Ordinance to be forwarded to the Federal Attorney General for his further consideration and action. The proposed amendments, among others, provides for the establishment of a statutory body regulating the affairs of the Sabah Bar.
“The amendments would also allow for a disciplinary board to be instituted and empowered to hear into complaints regarding advocates and to take appropriate actions to deal with the misconduct of advocates, if proven,” he pointed out.
The amendments also contain a provision liberalising the legal service to allow foreign lawyers to perform limited legal work in Sabah in line with the requirement of the World Trade Organisation.
Gaanesh gave the assurance that SLA has taken sufficient measures to ensure that the liberalisation of the legal service would not be treated upon by lawyers from other parts of the federation as a back door entry to facilitate practice in Sabah.