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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Timely to review judges’ retirement age, say ex-judges

 

Members of the judiciary at a conference. The mandatory retirement age for judges is 66.

PETALING JAYA: Raising the retirement age of judges will allow the country to continue to benefit from their wisdom and vast experience, a former judge said.

Gopal Sri Ram said many retired judges remain mentally and intellectually active well into their seventies.

“Age and experience benefit the justice system,” he told FMT.

Sri Ram said this in response to a suggestion that the government revive a proposal to amend the Federal Constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age of judges given that it presently commands a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

The constitution presently provides that judges must retire at age 66, after a 2005 amendment saw it raised from age 65.

A two-third majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat is required to pass amendments to the constitution.

Sri Ram, 79, who is still in active legal practice, said he would favour raising the retirement age of Court of Appeal and Federal Court judges to 75.

However, he warned that the institutions responsible must ensure that appointed judges possess a solid foundation of legal principles and the capacity to apply them properly.

He said that over the years, the nation had lost the benefit of the learning of eminent judges such as Edgar Joseph Jr, Zakaria Yatim, Siti Norma Yaakob, Mahadev Shankar, VC George and Daryl Goon, all of whom retired while still in their prime.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Hishamudin Yunus, 73, said he would welcome any move to increase the compulsory retirement age for superior court judges, that is, those who sit in the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court.

“Such a move will not only reflect improvements in life expectancy in this country, but is also in keeping with the practices in other Commonwealth countries,” he said.

He said the retirement age of judges in the UK and Australia is presently set at 70, while judges in Canada retire at 75.

“Those appointed in their mid-fifties will have the opportunity to enjoy a longer and more meaningful period of service as a judge,” said Hishamudin, who now serves as a consultant in a legal firm.

In November 2016, former law minister Rais Yatim mooted the idea of extending the retirement age of judges in line with trends in other countries.

He said at the time that although at age 70 a judge may not have the adrenaline surges of a younger person, he still retains “the dexterity, wisdom and brainpower that we want”.

In October 2018, then law minister, the late Liew Vui Keong, said the Pakatan Harapan government was considering a constitutional amendment to raise the retirement age of judges to 70.

Liew said the proposal was apt given that Dr Mahathir Mohamad had just taken office aged 93, becoming the oldest person in the world to be appointed to that office. - FMT

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