Challenge on judges’ extension unlikely to succeed, says ex-AG

Abu-Talib-Othman-Raus-Sharif-Zulkefli-AhmadPETALING JAYA: Any legal challenge to determine if the appointment of Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges is unconstitutional is unlikely to succeed, a former attorney-general (AG) says.

“It is very unlikely that the court will disturb the appointments because the government has said they were made in accordance with the constitution,” Abu Talib Othman told FMT.

However, he declined to provide further details on the matter.

He was responding to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office last night that the “decisions and procedure are consonant with the provisions of the Federal Constitution”.

The statement said Raus and Zulkelfi would be appointed additional judges to retain them as chief justice and Court of Appeal president, respectively.

Raus will continue to hold his position for another three years from Aug 4, and Zulkefli for another two years from Sept 28.

Raus was scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Zulkefli on Sept 27, after reaching the age of 66 years and six months.

The statement said their appointments as additional judges were made pursuant to Article 122B(1) of the Federal Constitution by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the prime minister and after consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

It added that the appointments were on the suggestion of then-chief justice Arifin Zakaria to the king on March 30 before his retirement.

Abu Talib, who was AG between 1980 and 1993, said it was a pity that retaining Raus and Zulkefli in their administrative positions gave the impression that the existing judges in the Federal Court were not ready to be elevated.

He also asked why the appointments were made in such a manner, which would continue to be questioned by the public.

“Those who feel that their rights have been affected can seek a remedy, but to me it is very unlikely to succeed because it is made in accordance with the constitution,” he said,

Earlier today, 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 of the calibre to take over their positions.

It is believed that at least eight Federal Court judges could miss promotional opportunities if Raus and Zulkefli remain in their present positions.

FMT previously reported that retired judges and the Malaysian Bar had expressed their reservations on the possibility of Raus and Zulkefli being retained in their posts.

Abdul Hamid Mohamad, who served as chief justice for about a year until 2008, said any move by Raus to remain in office after retirement would compromise the independence of the Malaysian judiciary.

Hamid said retaining a chief justice beyond the compulsory retirement age would create uncertainty among other judges regarding their careers.

Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said there were capable judges to take over the position of Raus as top judicial officer.

He warned that if the government defied the constitutional and legal restraints and proceeded to extend the tenure of the chief justice, it would “sow the wind but reap the whirlwind”.

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese also expressed concern that the extension of the tenure of the country’s top judge was not only unconstitutional but had unfairly embroiled Raus in a controversy.