A man acquitted in the Air India bombing case wants $9.2-million in legal costs, but a Crown lawyer argues Ripudaman Singh Malik should be denied because he hasn’t proved that prosecutors acted maliciously in proceeding to trial.
Mr. Malik has taken his demand for compensation to court, saying he spent four years in custody before he was acquitted in 2005 and that the media continued to vilify him after that.
But Len Doust said Tuesday the Crown had overwhelming evidence against Mr. Malik, although it was unable to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It’s not unfair or unjust to have him pay his own costs,” Mr. Doust told B.C. Supreme Court Judge Ian Josephson, who acquitted Mr. Malik and his co-accused of mass murder and conspiracy charges related to a pair of June 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people.
Mr. Doust said a not-guilty verdict doesn’t mean someone is innocent of a crime and that people are awarded costs only in extreme cases, such as when the Crown violates their charter rights.
Mr. Malik’s lawyer, Bruce McLeod, has argued the Crown was under a high degree of public pressure to pursue the unique case and based it largely on the testimony of a witness who had a vendetta against Mr. Malik.
Mr. Doust said the evidence of the witness, whose identity was protected in court, was presented as the 16th of 19 separate pieces of evidence at the bail hearing.
He also said it’s not unusual for a defendant to spend years behind bars before a trial can be scheduled and that the multimillionaire hardly qualified for legal assistance in the lengthy proceedings.
“Legal aid is not available to people like Mr. Malik because it shouldn’t be,” he said.
Mr. Doust noted Mr. Malik and his wife posted $11.6-million as their net worth at a bail hearing in 2000, suggesting he obviously had the money to pay his team of lawyers.
Less than a year later, however, Mr. Malik made a court application saying he had no money to fund his legal defence, although a judge ruled that he, his wife Raminder, and their children colluded in hiding the family’s enmeshed assets.
In April 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the B.C. government access to evidence that was seized in a bid to prove Mr. Malik can afford to pay his legal bill.
Mr. Malik has also pointed to wiretap evidence erased by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, including recordings of Talwinder Singh Parmar, the alleged mastermind of the Air India plot, as unacceptable negligence in the case.
However, Mr. Doust said that while the Crown conceded negligence by the agency, that didn’t mean it should have stopped prosecuting the terrorism case.
“Just because there was a charter violation doesn’t mean the Crown should abandon ship,” he said.
The Crown has maintained the plot to bomb government-owned Air India planes was hatched by B.C.-based Sikhs, who sought revenge against the Indian government after the army was ordered to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar a year earlier.