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M Ravi returns to law practice after reality jolt spurred by high-profile incidents

SINGAPORE — Human rights lawyer M Ravi cuts a different figure than he did just a few years ago, and he is well-aware of the striking change.

Lawyer M Ravi has filled his enforced downtime with productive pursuits such as travel, engaging in international human rights law and making contacts in foreign law firms.

Lawyer M Ravi has filled his enforced downtime with productive pursuits such as travel, engaging in international human rights law and making contacts in foreign law firms.

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SINGAPORE — Human rights lawyer M Ravi cuts a different figure than he did just a few years ago, and he is well-aware of the striking change.

Barred from applying for a practising certificate for two years in 2016, he was also grappling with bipolar disorder — punctuated by episodes of mania and depression. Unable to manage his mental condition, he ended up assaulting an ex-colleague, among other incidents.

Last year, he was ordered to undergo 18 months of mandatory treatment in lieu of jail time for his offences.

Now, the 50-year-old said that he has not suffered a relapse for more than a year — borne out of working closely with his doctors, family and friends to prevent relapses.

Things are looking up for him on the professional front as well. Mr Ravi, whose full name is Ravi Madasamy, received his practising certificate on Friday (July 5) after four years of not being able to flex his legal muscles in the courtroom.

A Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed to TODAY that the Registrar of the Supreme Court has issued Mr Ravi the practising certificate, with conditions. On what these conditions are, the court referred TODAY to Mr Ravi, who did not wish to reveal the details. 

Fellow human rights and criminal lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam welcomed him back to law firm Eugene Thuraisingam LLP in March, though Mr Ravi has since left and re-joined opposition party leader Lim Tean’s firm, Carson Law Chambers.

In June 2017, Mr Thuraisingam fired Mr Ravi as the firm’s head of knowledge management and strategic alliance — a job Mr Ravi accepted after the High Court suspended him in 2015 from practising until he was medically fit to do so.

Mr Ravi then broke into the firm’s People’s Park Centre office three times, before assaulting fellow lawyer, Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, outside the firm’s main office at The Adelphi.

“It was clear that I was unwell at the time when the incident took place,” he said in an interview with TODAY in April.

Mr Thuraisingam said that he has always considered Mr Ravi a friend, and that the nature of his illness caused him to behave in an “unfortunate” manner.

“Having said that, he needs to learn and understand that he cannot behave in that manner and do bad things to people. But we do hope and are confident that he will change for the better,” he added.


Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, Mr Ravi suffers from hypomanic episodes, characterised by symptoms such as euphoric or irritable moods. He said he was unable to recognise early symptoms.

In 2012, when the Law Society (LawSoc) ordered him to stop his legal practice pending a medical examination, he created a ruckus at the society’s premises.

In February 2015, LawSoc banned him from practising, before the High Court suspended his practice altogether. A week earlier, he had declared in a hastily convened press conference that he would run in Singapore's next General Election, adding that he aspired to be the next prime minister.

About two years later, he used abusive language on others at Chinatown’s Sri Mariamman Temple on two occasions.

Then, when he persisted in representing Malaysian drug trafficker Prabagaran Srivijayan, who had been given the death penalty, the Court of Appeal ordered him to pay costs for a “senseless and frivolous” application.

Lawyer M Ravi outside court several years ago before losing the right to practise, a right that was restored on July 5, 2019. TODAY file photo

On July 14, 2017, the morning Prabagaran was executed, Mr Ravi turned up at a candlelight vigil outside Changi Prison Complex and berated the crowd. At the gathering was freelance journalist and fellow anti-death-penalty activist Kirsten Han, who — among several of his friends — publicly urged him to seek help.

“It’s been painful for those of us who care about him to watch this downward spiral, played out so publicly over Facebook Live over the past months,” Ms Han wrote in a Facebook post shortly after.

Such pleas from Mr Ravi’s loved ones jolted him to reality.

He said: “I sought help and treatment to curb my relapses after realising and watching my own videos of the distress I was causing myself and others around me.” 

Now, he said, he has better insight into his condition and has learned to recognise triggers.

He also said that those with bipolar disorder are “sadly, grossly misunderstood and still stigmatised today”, due to a lack of awareness and education on mental health in general.

“It is important to recognise that one should not treat a relapse from bipolar disorder any differently from a relapse from any other physical or mental illness. Both are physiological medical conditions that deserve care, empathy and respect for the patient.” 

Any misbehaviour due to the condition should not be equated to a character flaw, he added.

As for himself, he said he did not get the impression that people question his ability to do his work now.

“I think what is more important is not the fall, but how one rises after the fall.” 

Support from people around him definitely helped in the recovery process. 

​LawSoc has been a “good source of support and encouragement”, Mr Ravi said. He has “enjoyed tremendous support and camaraderie” from the legal fraternity as well, especially from senior lawyers.

Mr Thuraisingam said that understanding Mr Ravi's mental condition, while difficult, has been a learning experience. He corresponds with Mr Ravi’s doctors and tries to read up about the subject.

“It is difficult and extremely stressful though, having to stay vigilant to what he does and to put in place safeguards to protect the people around him. We do, however, try our best,” he added.


Over the last few years, Mr Ravi has used the downtime to travel overseas and be more active in international human rights law and advocacy work. He took the time to give lectures, make contacts and work with foreign legal teams.

For example, he is now working with a team in Tanzania in eastern Africa on a constitutional challenge against the country’s mandatory death penalty. He is also working with environmental lawyers in Indonesia on the perennial haze issue.

With his practising certificate in hand, Mr Ravi said that he will continue to take human rights law cases that are pertinent to Singaporeans. He also recently launched a personal website and video channel to educate others on various aspects of the law.

As he moves to put his past behind him, Mr Ravi is keen to increase awareness on mental health.

“Instead of ostracising and throwing stones, we can do better by showing love, understanding and support that allows those with mental conditions to recover faster,” he said.

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bipolar disorder lawyer M Ravi

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