PETALING JAYA: The current Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum can only be elevated if Chief Justice Raus Sharif declines to remain in office from Aug 3, a retired judge said.
Gopal Sri Ram said the Judicial Appointments Commission could propose to the Conference of Rulers to then appoint Malanjum to the top judicial post.
“It is a simple process,” he said, adding that Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin could be acting chief justice until Sept 27 for Malanjum’s elevation to be finalised.
The other option, he said, was for the court to declare Raus’ appointment as unconstitutional, in which case a fresh appointment has to be made.
Sri Ram said Malanjum is best suited for the post because he is the longest-serving member in the Federal Court and has much judicial experience.
“It would also be a recognition of extending equality to the East Malaysian states rather than hogging the post always for West Malaysians.”
Sri Ram was responding to a call made by former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim who urged opposition and BN MPs from Sabah and Sarawak to nominate Malanjum for the position, following the controversy surrounding the government’s extension of Raus’ tenure to remain in the top judicial post.
Zaid said Malanjum must not be bypassed because he is a Christian or because he is not a Malay.
Zaid’s call came after Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen said Parliament should urge Prime Minister Najib Razak to advise the king to appoint Malanjum as the next chief justice of the Federal Court.
Raus’ extension was criticised by the legal fraternity, with senior lawyers and former top judges questioning its constitutionality.
On July 7, the government said the king had approved former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s advice to make Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office 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’s tenure is for three years from Aug 4 while Zulkefli will remain in his current administrative post for two years from Sept 28.
The legal fraternity, including the Malaysian Bar, has questioned whether the appointment of Raus and Zulkefli is constitutional.
They said the extension gave the impression that current senior judges are not competent enough for the post.
Malanjum was appointed Federal Court judge in 2004 and promoted to his current position in 2006, surpassing the seniority of even Raus who was only appointed to the Federal Court in 2009.
He will retire in October next year.