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Chief justice praises lawyers for role in development of laws

 | March 28, 2017

Judges interpret the laws but lawyers assist the five-man bench in the Federal Court in coming up with milestone judgments, says nation's top judge


PUTRAJAYA: Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria has paid tribute to lawyers who contribute to the bench’s landmark judgments.

“In our adversarial system, we cannot overlook the role of lawyers to assist us,” he said in an interview with the media on the eve of his retirement this week.

He said in a parliamentary democracy such as Malaysia, it could not be helped that judges too created laws through their written judgments.

“We interpret the laws as enacted by Parliament but the five-man bench in the Federal Court is assisted by lawyers,” he said.

On occasion, lawyers have also been noted to persuade the bench to adopt the English Common Law where there is no written law on a subject that has been passed by the Malaysian legislature.

He said command of the English language among legal practitioners was crucial to help the judiciary develop the law.

“Most of the law textbooks are written in English and words need to be interpreted in that language,” he said.

On another subject, Arifin said the Federal Court was also playing the role of the constitutional court but it was left to the government to decide whether to establish such a dedicated court.

A constitutional court is a high court that deals primarily with constitutional law.

Its main authority is to rule whether laws that are challenged are in fact unconstitutional and go against established rights and freedoms.

Indonesia, Thailand and South Africa are among the countries that have set up such courts.

Arifin said the Malaysian Federal Court was the final arbiter on constitutional issues and it might also provide opinion on any provision of the constitution when a reference came from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“That is the reason why we established the Court of Appeal in 1994 to filters civil cases before going to the Federal Court to argue on novel legal points or on constitutional grounds,” he said.


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