Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Contempt of Court - Tamil Nesan was fined $ 1750 for defending Sambasivam

The Straits Times dated 20th August 1949 reported that a Malayan Tamil daily, Tamil Nesan, was fined for contempt of court for publishing article related to Ganapathy and Sambasivam. The proprietor of Tamil Nesan, Mayandy Chettiar was fined $750 and the editor cum publisher of the newspaper, Athi Nahappan, was fined $1000 in the Supreme Court, Kuala Lumpur.

Both of them ordered to pay half the cost of the case $250. The case was due to an article published in Tamil Nesan titled "Save Sambasivam."

In giving the judgement, Justice Spencer Wilkinson said that the article deliberately attacked the course of justice administered by the court. The article too contained unfounded attack upon the judge sentenced.

According to the news, Sambasivam Narayanasamy was charged for illegal arms possession on the 2nd and 3rd March before the Johor Bahru High Court. At the end of the trial, the assessors found Sambasivam was not guilty but the judge, Justice Laville disagreed and order a re-trial. (Also note here that S.A Ganapathy was arrested around the same time - 1st March 1949)

The re-trial of Sambasivam was held in Johor Bahru High Court on the 21 and 22nd March before a different judge (Justice Paul Storr of Ipoh) and different assessors. The judge and the assessors found him guilty as charged and was sentenced to death. His appeal to appeal court was rejected on 28th April 1949 (based on telegram from Lord Listowel -http://www.malaya-ganapathy.com/2014/06/why-more-efforts-were-taken-place-to.html)

The Straits Times - 23rd March 1949

Interesting to note here that that a week earlier to this, S.A Ganapathy was tried and sentenced on the 15th March 1949. Ganapathy was sentenced be to hanged on 4th May 1949 and Sambasivam on the 4th June 1949.  

The judge also commented that the article "Save Sambasivam" suggested that Government of India should take political action in London to prevent Sambasivam's execution without awaiting the result of appeal to the Privy Council. The article further commented that owing to lack of experience to the newly introduced illegal arms possession procedure which resulted Ganapathy's death. For this, the article suggest that the government of India have to interfere to ensure justice is done in Sambasivam's case.

Background of Sambasivam:

Sambasivam was a Secretary of Rubber Worker Union Segamat in Johor. He was arrested on the 13th September 1948 at Bukit Kepong, Johor. At the time of his arrest, he was in the company of two plain clothed Chinese who were allegedly armed. Three Malays armed with knives (parangs) tried to arrest him and it was reported Sambasivam was wounded in the fight. One of the two Chinese was killed and other escaped. An automatic revolver and 10 rounds of ammunition found on Sambasivam during his arrest. Due to his injuries he was hospitalised for more than 5 months and was discharged on 28th February 1949.

Sambasivam was tried at the Johor Bahru High Court on the 2nd and 3rd March 1949 for unlawfully carrying arms. The assessors found him not guilty but the trial judge disagreed and orders a retrial.

A retrial took place on 22nd March 1949 where Sambasivam was found guilty by both assessors (a Malay and an Indian). Sambasivam further appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on 28th April 1948. All the three Appeal Judges (including the Chief Justice) agreed with the Trial Judge. He was sentenced to death. The execution was scheduled to take place on the 4th June 1949. But John Thivy took enormous efforts to save Sambasivam by pursuing latter in person to sign the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council on the 3rd of June 1949 - a day before his scheduled execution.

Eventually on 31st March 1950, Sambasivam was found not guilty by the Privy Council and he was released and deported to India. He returned to his village, Vanakkampaadi in Arcot Taluk in Tamil Nadu. He was actively involved in social reformation by setting up schools for poor children in his village. This eventually invited unwanted animosity with a few individuals who attacked and killed him. He left behind his wife and four daughters and three sons.

Athi Nahappan with wife Janaki Thevar 

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