When Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria took the post as the top judicial officer in the country, he brought in an environmental agenda by forming specialised environmental courts throughout the country in 2012.
Nearly five years' on, Justice Arifin is glad to see that his message of having courts mete out greater punishments against those who affect the environment is getting across.
“I am glad that the courts have seen an increase in penalties, not like before and enforcement has also improved.
“This is the impact to the public awareness. As can be seen there were traffickers of animal caught in Penang, they no longer face a fine but face inprisonment. It is not like the old days, where traders of wild animals get off with a fine,” he said.
In Sabah, polluters and litterbugs, Justice Arifin said are required to do community service besides the punishment.
“There are required to go back to clean the place and make sure they clean up the place,” he told reporters after officiating the 2017 Legal Year in Putrajaya.
At the launching of the 2012 Legal Year, a few months after being appointed as CJ, he expressed shock over a disparity in sentences meted out when in 2005, the Magistrate's Court fined a person for illegally possessing a live tiger for RM7,000 in 2005, compared to a person stealing 11 cans of Tiger beer, where a five-year jail sentence was imposed.
That incident had resulted in him forming specialised environmental courts where senior Sessions Court judges or magistrates would preside.
To questions on murder suspects being incarcerated for a long time before a decision was made, Justice Arifin said directions had been made to expedite such cases and their trials.
However, he noted that there were not many criminal lawyers especially in Selangor and this was further hampered with such cases involving the same investigating officer and chemists.
“There is a need to increase the number of criminal lawyers. Sometimes the accused person want a particular lawyer.
“There are also so few chemist and they testify in court (for several cases) and at the same time analyse the samples,” he said.
Earlier, in his speech during the launching of the Legal Year, Justice Arifin emphasises the importance of the environment and sustainable development while the country pursued development of the nation.
He said a clean and sustainable environment should be everyone's constitutional right.
The top judicial officer further cited a quote from Mahatma Gandhi who said the environment is something which we loaned from our children and therefore, there was a need to safeguard it.- Mkini