Case Summaries

Mohammad Farid bin Batra v Public Prosecutor and another appeal and another matter [2020] SGCA 19

SUPREME COURT OF SINGAPORE

26 March 2020

Case summary

Mohammad Farid bin Batra v Public Prosecutor and another appeal and another matter [2020] SGCA 19
Criminal Appeals Nos 17 and 19 of 2016 and Criminal Motions No 5 of 2017 and No 4 of 2018

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Decision of the Court of Appeal (delivered by Tay Yong Kwang JA):

Outcome: Court of Appeal affirmed Mohammad Farid’s and Ranjit Singh’s convictions and sentences for trafficking in not less than 35.21g of diamorphine but holds that Mohammad Farid was only a “courier” for this particular transaction.

Introduction

1 Mohammad Farid bin Batra (“Farid”) and Ranjit Singh Gill Manjeet Singh (“Ranjit”), were found guilty and convicted of trafficking in not less than 35.21g of diamorphine after a joint trial before a High Court Judge (“the Judge”).

2 The Judge found that Ranjit was a courier within the meaning of s 33B(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed). As the Public Prosecutor had issued a certificate of substantive assistance to Ranjit, the Judge exercised her discretion and sentenced him to life imprisonment and the mandatory 15 strokes of the cane. As for Farid, the Judge held that he was not a courier. In any event, Farid did not receive a certificate of substantive assistance. Accordingly, the Judge imposed the mandatory death sentence on him.

3 Criminal Appeal No 17 of 2016 (“CCA 17/2016”) and Criminal Appeal No 19 of 2016 (“CCA 19/2016”) were, respectively, Farid’s and Ranjit’s appeals against conviction and sentence. Farid contended that he did not have the intention of trafficking the drugs and also appealed against the finding that he was not a courier. Ranjit appealed on the ground that he had no knowledge of the nature of the drugs in his possession. Ranjit filed a criminal motion before the Court of Appeal (“the Court”) to adduce further evidence pertaining to his financial status at the time leading up to his arrest (“the Further Evidence”). Ranjit also alleged that he had received inadequate legal assistance from his trial counsel.  

Facts

4 On 6 February 2014, Farid and Ranjit met in the vicinity of Choa Chu Kang Way. Ranjit alighted from the bus he was driving, walked towards Farid’s car and placed a white plastic bag (“the Robinsons Bag”) on the front passenger seat through an open window. Subsequently, Farid and Ranjit were arrested by CNB officers separately. The Robinsons Bag was found to contain five plastic packets of diamorphine which formed the subject matter of the respective charges.  

Remittal proceedings

5 Ranjit’s counsel submitted that the Further Evidence was not adduced at the trial because his trial counsel did not abide by his instructions. The Court thus remitted the case to the Judge to take further evidence on Ranjit’s allegations against his trial counsel.  

6 The Judge held that Ranjit failed to prove that his trial counsel had failed to present his case in accordance with his instructions save for one limited aspect.

The Court of Appeal’s decision

CCA 17/2016

7 In respect of Farid, it was beyond dispute that he had intended to traffic the drugs as he had offered and was prepared to deliver the drugs to the clients of “Abang” (at [86]). The Court rejected Farid’s counsel’s submission that there was a possibility that Farid could be instructed by Abang to return the drugs to him. There was no evidence adduced in the trial to establish that the drugs in Farid’s possession were for purposes other than delivery or distribution for Abang (at [90]).

8 The Court accepted that Farid’s role in the transaction was to collect the drugs and await Abang’s instructions. On this particular occasion, Abang had not given any instructions yet as to what Farid should do with the drugs, including whether it was to be repacked. Thus, the Court accepted, on a balance of probabilities, that Farid was a courier for the particular transaction that he was charged for (at [94]). However, as Farid was not issued a certificate of substantive assistance, the Court upheld the mandatory death sentence imposed by the Judge. Farid’s appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed.

CCA 19/2016

9 In respect of Ranjit, the Court noted that Ranjit did not seek to challenge the Judge’s findings in the remittal proceedings that his trial counsel had presented his case in accordance with his instructions save for one limited aspect (at [101]). The Court found that the Further Evidence was available to Ranjit at trial but he chose not to adduce it. It was also not reliable and not material to Ranjit’s conviction (at [105]). The Court dismissed the criminal motion to adduce the further evidence.  

10 Ranjit failed to rebut the statutory presumption that he had knowledge of the nature of the drugs. If his case was that he was carrying something innocuous, his evidence could not be believed because he stated to the contrary in his statements. If his case was that he knew he was delivering something illegal but did not turn his mind to what exactly it was, the presumption would not be rebutted as he was not a credible witness and he could not merely say that he did not know what was in the Robinsons Bag without proving that he believed it was something else (at [113]). 

11 Turning to Ranjit’s claim that he had received inadequate assistance from his trial counsel, the Court held that this was to be assessed through a two-step approach. First, the accused person must show that the trial counsel’s conduct of the case fell so clearly below an objective standard and could be fairly described as flagrant or egregious incompetence or indifference (at [135]). Second, the accused person must also show that there is a real possibility that the inadequate assistance caused a miscarriage of justice (at [139]). Applying this two-step approach, the Court found that Ranjit’s assertions had no merit (at [148]). Ranjit’s appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed.

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.

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