KUALA LUMPUR: Superior court judges will continue to supervise High Court judges in the distribution of cases as it does not amount to interference, Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said.
He said the practice, started during the tenure of former chief justice Zaki Azmi, had worked well in the administration of justice.
“The managing judges are appointed to supervise the High Court judges in the peninsular and are not involved in the decision making process,” he said after the close of the 51st Judges’ Conference at a hotel here today.
Zulkefli said he had about 90 judges and judicial commissioners to oversee and it would be difficult for him alone to manage the lower courts.
Apart from the High Court, all the magistrates and Sessions Court judges come under the purview of the chief judge of Malaya.
However, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum said there were no managing judges in the Borneo states as the number of High Court judges was small.
“I have only 13 judges and can manage them myself,” he said.
Both said this in response to a recent call by two retired judges who wanted Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria to discontinue the practice as it is against the law.
Gopal Sri Ram and Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus said what was being done now amounted to an interference in the independence of the judges in the High Court as they were supposed to be left to manage their own court.
They said the immediate superior of the High Court judges, the Chief Judge of Malaya or the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak should not interfere with the assignment of cases, such as transferring files from one judge to another.
Sri Ram said the current practice of having managing judges from the Federal Court or Court of Appeal to oversee High Court judges was against Section 20 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 (CoJA).
He said the provision stated that the distribution of business among the judges of the High Court shall be made in accordance with direction given by the chief judge of Malaya or of Sabah and Sarawak.
“The appointment of managing judges also eats into the power of the chief judge and renders him ineffective,” said the former Federal Court judge, adding that the present system was open to abuse.
Sri Ram said each High Court judge was “a lion in his own den” and it was also best left to the chief judge to perform the functions vested in him by the CoJA, for which he was paid.
Sri Ram said the appointment of managing judges was akin to closely observing the judicial officers in the High Court, but that there were other steps to remove the underperforming ones from the system.
He said that the latest incident gave the impression of judges choosing to hear a case.
Hishamudin had said the provision in the CoJa only allowed the chief judge to have limited control of judges in his jurisdiction.
“There is no place for Federal Court or Court of Appeal judges to manage High Court judges or cases,” Hishamudin added.
He said this did not happen when he served under four chief judges before his elevation to the Court of Appeal in 2009.
Zaki, who helmed the judiciary from 2008-2011, had reportedly implemented the system in order to expedite the disposal of cases. -FMT