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THE Consumer Claims Tribunal and the Tribunal for Homebuyer Claims do not allow disputing parties to be represented by lawyers. This is because they are supposed to be low-cost forums for *** all claims from the public.
“Lawyers” here refers to practising lawyers.
This provision, in many cases, leaves the claimants at a great disadvantage as large businesses often have employees who have legal qualifications. These employees, who do not hold a practising certificate from the Bar Council, are assigned to represent their employers at tribunal hearings. For all practical purposes they are lawyers but because they do not practise law, they are allowed to speak for their employers.
The man in the street can get help from anyone, including lawyers, to prepare their claim forms for filing. But at the hearing they could have difficulty presenting their case. They might not be articulate enough or they might not be coherent in their presentation. They might not be able to rebut what the defendants say. Thus some claimants are left in a very disadvantageous position at the hearings, not because they have any physical disability, but because their knowledge, experience, confidence, speaking ability do not match those of the defendants.
A clause in the laws of the tribunals says “a minor or any other person under a disability may be represented by his next friend or guardian ad litem”.
Is a layperson claimant who is facing a “laywer” on the defendant’s side “under a disability” as he is no match for him?
How is this section interpreted and applied by the tribunals? A person can be “under a disability” if he is a minor, physically handicapped or has a mental condition. That is easily understood. But when a person is not intellectually on par with his opponent, is that condition not a form of disability as well?
Do the tribunals recognise intellectual disability, which can result in injustice for the intellectually disabled, which must not be confused with the mentally disabled?
The phrase in the tribunal laws is “person under a disability” and this should cover a wider, fuller spectrum of disability than that covered by legal disability.
Could the tribunals throw some light on this and whether they allow persons under intellectual disability to be assisted by anyone other than practising lawyers. – March 30, 2021.
* Ravinder Singh reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.