PETALING JAYA: Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria today defended as constitutional his advice to the king to appoint Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges after their retirement.
“It was within my power on March 30 to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to consider appointing them as additional judges,” he told FMT.
Arifin, who left office on March 31, said under Article 121 (1A), it was the prerogative of the king to accept his advice.
“The advice was accepted and both were appointed additional judges only,” he said.
Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution states the king can appoint for a specific term or purpose any person who has held high judicial office in Malaysia.
“The appointment is valid as both will be made additional judges of the Federal Court soon after their mandatory retirement,” he said.
He clarified that his proposal to the king was for future appointments but made while he was in office.
However, Arifin said he had no role in the extension of Raus and Zulkefli’s tenure as chief justice and Court of Appeal president.
“When the appointments were made in May, I was no longer in office,” he said.
Arifin said the appointments of the chief justice and Court of Appeal president were the prerogative of the government, the king and the Conference of Rulers.
He declined further comment on that matter as there could be legal challenges in court soon.
His response came after Friday’s media statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that the king had approved Arifin’s proposal to appoint Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.
Following the approval, the PMO statement said the king, on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers, which met in May, had appointed Raus and Zulkefli to remain in their present posts.
Raus’ tenure is for three years from Aug 4 while Zulkefli will remain in his current administrative post for two years from Sept 28.
Over the last few days, lawyers and the Malaysian Bar have questioned whether Arifin’s advice to the king was constitutional.
However senior lawyers Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Jagjit Singh took the stand that Arifin’s action was legal and the extension of tenure for Raus and Zulkelfi is constitutional.
Former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad had voiced his disapproval through his blog in May that a further extension to Raus’ tenure would be unconstitutional and would cause uncertainty in the judiciary.
In another posting yesterday, Hamid said the judiciary would be perceived as pro-government should Raus and Zulkefli hold on to their posts.
Similar opinions had been expressed by former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim and current Malaysian Bar president George Varughese.