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Monday, August 29, 2011

Outgoing chief justice denies controlling judges

Outgoing Chief Justice Zaki Azmi has denied having had any “control” over judges, although he could have “easily” done so.

NONE“If I wanted to influence anyone I could have easily controlled the young judges or the Judicial Commissioners because they wanted promotions, but I never controlled them,” he said in an interview with Bernama.

Zaki, 66, who is set to retire next month, had risen dramatically up the ranks - from a practising lawyer to a Federal Court judge in 2007 and, a year later, to Chief Justice.

He noted that younger judges had decided against the government in several cases, including the Perak constitutional crisis - where Zambry Abd Kadir of BN and Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin of Pakatan Rakyat had battled it out in court to be declared the menteri besar.

“They decided against the government but it was reversed by three Court of Appeal judges, and they are more experienced than the young judges.

“So whose decision should we accept? The decision of the young judges or that of the three experienced judges?”

“I don't manipulate. I think of Allah. That's more important. If I am unfair or decide without following the law, then I am responsible to Allah. To me that's more important. Not money or whatever.”

He reiterated that he has never presided over any Umno-related cases during his tenure as a judge, although he was among the key Umno lawyers before his appointment.

“Even though I was not in Umno, I did not do it. In fact, after I became Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President, I was not involved in setting up the panel of judges. I asked the former Court of Appeal president, Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, to do it.

“I did not want to know who was the judge, win or lose I did not care. In fact, in a Felda case I heard, I decided against Felda and ordered them to pay RM11 million in damages.”

Improvements in judiciary

In the interview, Zaki highlighted his achievement in clearing tens of thousands of backlog cases from the 1990s.

jalan duta court house mahkamah 010507Adding that it was his primary objective when he took up the post, Zaki said that, with the employment of more High Court judges and assistance of better recording equipment, cases were disposed of sooner.

He also said that the relationship between the judges and the Bar Council had improved tremendously over the past three years, following the changes that were implemented.

However, asked if the speedy approach has changed public perception of the integrity of the courts, Zaki said: “(It's) is harder for me to prove... but from the slander, letters I received, complaints of judges being unfair or clerks losing files are greatly reduced, (there are) almost none now.” - Malaysiakini

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