Exciting exchange expected on judges’ appointments at Bar forum

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PETALING JAYA: A retired judge and a senior lawyer who have taken opposing stands on the appointments of the chief justice and Court of Appeal president will feature next week at the Bar Council forum.

Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram and lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah are the two speakers slated to discuss the topic “Appointments of Chief Justice and President of Court of Appeal: Constitutional Issue.”

A Bar Council circular states the forum will be held at the Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium at the Straits Trading Building in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 2, from 6pm.

The event will be moderated by former Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong.

As early as May, Sri Ram had said the tenure of Chief Justice Raus Sharif could not be extended as it was not provided for in the Federal Constitution

He said a chief justice could not be appointed as an additional judge and then re-appointed as chief justice as there were no provisions under Articles 122(1) and (1A).

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

“First, it will undermine the judiciary and denude it of the respect such as which exists today.

“Second, and more importantly, the extension may be challenged causing embarrassment to the present incumbent. That must be avoided at all costs,” he had added.

Shafee in a commentary on July 8 said the tenure of Raus and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin could be extended as “additional judges” under Article 122(1A) of the constitution.

Shafee said this provision had been utilised twice, the first for Federal Court judge S Chelvasingam MacIntyre in 1965, as there was a severe shortage of top judicial brains in the apex court.

He said this provision was used again last year to appoint Jefferey Tan Kok Hwa for two years.

Shafee said McIntyre was brought back due to his competence, Tan due to his competence and the lack of Chinese or non-Malay Federal Court candidates at that time.

Shafee said Raus and Zulkefli ‘s extension had to do with their competence, experience and administrative skills.

He said no provisions in the constitution seemed to prohibit their appointments.

On July 7, the government said the king had accepted former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s advice to appoint 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.

Raus’ extension was criticised by the legal fraternity, with senior lawyers and former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad questioning its constitutionality.

The Malaysian Bar, which has described the appointments as “blatantly unconstitutional,” will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Aug 3 to obtain views of its members.