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Monday, September 30, 2013

CJ: Judges appointed without influence from anyone

The appointment of judges, says Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria, is made in confidentiality without any influence from anyone.

Justice Arifin, in his speech at the elevation ceremony of seven judges today, said it is based on a majority vote conducted by the Judicial Appointment Commission (JAC), since the Act was gazetted in 2009.

“Independence in the appointment of judges is vital to ensure the independence of the judiciary in making an informed decision.

“An independent judiciary is the pillar of upholding the law in the country and it should be safeguarded and protected by all society,” he said in his speech during the elevation of judges in Kuala Lumpur today.

azlanJudges, Justice Arifin said, should be brave in making independent decisions in upholding the law.

He said in any decision there is bound to be criticism, however, as long as it is based on law principles and on upholding the law, there would be integrity in the decision and this would ensure the independence of the judiciary.
Justice Arifin is also the chairperson of the JAC. Also present was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri. Others included President of the Court of Appeal Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin, and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum.
Earlier, Justices Mohamed Ramly Ali, Mohamed Apandi Ali and Abu Samah Nordin were elevated from the Court of Appeal to the Federal Court.

Meanwhile, four judges from the High Court were elevated to the Court of Appeal.

They are Justices Zakaria Sam, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Varghese a/l George Varughese.
Out of the seven, five had come from the Legal and Judicial Service of the government, while Varghese and Md Apandi were picked from private practice.

However, Justice Md Apandi. who chaired the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder appeal at the appellate court, was once attached to the Legal and Judicial Service before going into private practice.

Agong’s prerogative to appoint

When met on the sidelines over rumours that Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus had been overlooked to be elevated to the Federal Court despite his name being forwarded, Justice Arifin initially did not want to comment.

However, he later explained that it was at the prerogative of the Yang di Pertuan Agong on the advice of the prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak).

“The PM did consult us (JAC). But it is not 100 percent the prerogative of JAC. JAC looks at the merit in the appointment (or promotion) and it would be the prerogative of the Yang di Pertuan Agong.

“It is unfair of you (the media) to pinpoint a particular judge,” he said.

NONEJustice Hishamudin, the third senior-most judge at the appellate court, and Justice Abdul Malik Ishak, who is the most senior, were left out from being elevated to the Federal Court.

It was reported in The Star today that Hishamudin, known to be fairly independent, was not elevated despite his name reportedly coming up. According to the daily the PM asked for other recommendations for him to consider.

Justice Hishamudin made several landmark decisions going against the government like against the Internal Security Act and the old Section 15 of the Universities and University Colleges Act which previously barred students from actively taking part in politics.

To another question on the Bar not being consulted on the elevation of the judges, Justice Arifin said it was not out of disrespect of the Bar but it was never in law that JAC has to consult them.

“In the past we had discussions when the president comes to power. Normally we discuss, but there is nothing special or formal discussion in this. This was practised by my predecessor Zaki Azmi and also when I took over."

Action taken on judges

Justice Arifin also said judges are required to write judgments within eight weeks of a case, be it civil or criminal hearings, but in some cases this could be expanded.

“Actions have been taken on judges who have not delivered when you see their appointments have not been renewed or the judicial commissioner not progressing to become a full-fledged judge (at the High Court).

“Oh yes, we have issued show-cause letters to them in the past, and this also applies to magistrates or Sessions Court judges where disciplinary action was taken against them,” he said.

Arifin, in his speech, had urged judges to improve on the quality of their decisions so that there would be continued trust in the judiciary.

The Chief Justice emphasised that written judgments must be prepared carefully based on the law and this is more important in the appellate and apex court where the decisions are binding on the courts below.

He also urged judges to be patient when conducting submissions or listening to evidence.

“Never be hasty in giving their right to a hearing or have lawyers cut short in delivering submission just because you want to dispose of a case quickly. I do not want to receive any more complaints of judges being impatient in wanting to dispose of a case quickly,” he said.

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