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Archive for November 17th, 2010

MEMORANDUM TO PARTNERS

From: Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

To: The Partners

It is with pleasure that I report this day that plans by other law firms to ‘Take The Indian law market’ may have been stymied by the quite brilliant idea cooked up by our esteemed fellow partner and Director of Education and Strategy, Dr Strangelove;  that I visit India last month to seek to set up Muttley Dastardly (India) LLP. I thought it tasteless that I arrive on an elephant, wearing a pith helmet, because I felt fairly certain that Indian lawyers are really rather shrewd and could see no particular advantage to themselves in having a ravening horde of English law firms competing with them.  Strangelove was right.  It did irritate them.

We shall continue to co-operate with our best friends in India as before – but secure in the knowledge that our competitors in London are probably displeased.

I reference the article in The Law Society Gazette for your delectation and delight. James Dean has excelled himself with this raportage.

Indian legal services market to stay closed

The Indian government has no plans to allow foreign law firms to practise in the country, it said in a statement on Monday.

Veerappa Moily, minister of law and justice, said in response to a question in the Indian parliament that ‘at present there is no proposal to allow foreign law firms into the country’.

I particularly liked the text I have put in bold in this extract…

A statement on the Indian government’s website read: ‘Dr M Veerappa Moily, minister of law and justice, in the Lok Sabha in a written reply that under section 7 of the Advocates Act 1961, the Bar Council of India is responsible to lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquette for advocates; to safeguard the right, privileges and interests of advocates; to recognise on a reciprocal basis foreign qualification in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission advocate and to manage; to exercise general supervision and control over state bar councils and invest the funds of the Bar Council.

We meet this Friday to consider our weekly business.

Matt Muttley

Strength & Profits

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“Don’t poke a stick up a tiger’s bum unless you are outside its cage”

I quote above  from a comment made by stoneshepherd in the comments section of an excellent article in The Guardian:

Death and discrimination in Singapore

The writer Alan Shadrake has been jailed for exposing the lottery of Singapore’s execution rates.  I know Singapore well.  I was there as a child and in later life when I visited to talk to members of the legal profession, government and judiciary.  I have taught a great many Singaporean lawyers.

I am not at all surprised that the Singaporean judiciary has jailed 75 year old Alan Shadrake for contempt.  He knew that he faced the possibility of imprisonment for the offence.

The Guardian reports:

Shadrake has been jailed for six week and fined for “scandalising the judiciary” for remarks in his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. The book includes an interview with Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore’s Changi prison, who was said to have executed 1,000 prisoners over half a century.

However, the central theme of the book is Shadrake’s claim that Singapore’s legal system does not accord equal treatment to those suspected of capital offences. The death penalty is mandatory for a number of offences including murder and possession of drugs over a certain amount. In Singapore, as a result, he asserts that the question of who lives and who dies is an arbitrary lottery.

Singapore employs the death penalty for a range of offences.  It also uses corporal punishment.  Singapore, it has to be said, is an economic powerhouse but it also has a fairly repressive penal system and, it would seem, a judiciary incapable of tolerating criticism.  To be a judge in one’s own cause raises interesting issues of legal principle.  It is inconceivable that a court in our country would (in these days)  convict a journalist or lawyer, or anyone,  for reasoned, rational, objective criticism of a judgment.  The judiciary here are subjected to reasoned and unreasoned criticism on a daily basis.  It goes with the territory.  It is part of the rough and tumble of democracy and freedom of speech.  The convention is that the judges are not swayed by public opinion.  Contempt of Court is a quite different issue and need not be addressed here.

It won’t affect tourism.  It won’t affect business dealings with Singapore – and it probably won’t ‘trend’ on twitter because few will care about what Singapore judges do  – but those who are interested in human rights, who are interested in the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, can express surprise that a sophisticated City state in the 21st Century is so unsure of itself judicially – or perhaps repression is just a default setting – that it can’t hack a reasoned and analytical criticism of judicial power.  The Guardian writers  said it is scandalous.  I agree but would add…that it is tragic.

It is unlikely that I shall ever return to Singapore.  I probably won’t be able to after writing this piece.  I do not flatter myself that the Singaporean judges will read this.  They won’t.  But I am fairly certain that Singapore’s highly sophisticated communication systems will pick it up and flag it up on a  database.  Many Singaporeans are quite happy to live with a regime of strict laws.  That is their right and prerogative.    It doesn’t stop writers and commentators, however, from commenting adversely on Singapore’s continuing use of the death penalty or the jailing of a 75 year old man who wished to shine a light on their judicial system. Shadrake had the courage to poke a stick up a tiger’s bum… inside the cage…and now…he is in the cage…for six weeks.

Now.. I can’t hang about… there are more windmills to tilt at!

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