Bar says retaining top judges unconstitutional, to call EGM

George-Varughese-egmPETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) next month after the Bar Council questioned the government’s decision yesterday to extend the tenure of two top judges.

Bar president George Varughese said the Council at its monthly meeting today took the view that the appointment of Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges was “blatantly unconstitutional”.

“We are in the process of drafting the resolutions to be sent to our members,” he told FMT today, adding that details would be made known once the draft resolutions were sent to its 16,500-odd members in the peninsular by next week.

The Prime Minister’s Office last night in confirming the decision said Raus would continue to hold his position as chief justice for another three years from Aug 4, while Zulkefli will continue as Court of Appeal president for another two years from Sept 28.

Both had been scheduled to retire as they turn 66 this year.

It is understood that the EGM was to get a mandate from its members before deciding the next course of action.

A seven-day notice must be given for the EGM, which requires a quorum of 500.

Under the Legal Profession Act 1976, an EGM could be convened by the Bar Council or at the request of at least 150 members.

A similar EGM was convened three decades ago, when then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sacked six judges including the Lord President Salleh Abas, triggering a prolonged judiciary crisis.

Putrajaya said its decision to retain Raus and Zulkefli was made pursuant to Article 122B(1) of the Federal Constitution by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the prime minister in consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

Former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman had today said the decision gave the impression that the existing judges in the Federal Court were not ready to be elevated.

Former Malaysian Bar president Zainur Zakaria said keeping Raus and Zulkefli on the bench sent the message that other judges in the Federal court were not qualified.