PETALING JAYA: A former attorney-general has dismissed a suggestion by a retired judge that he made complaints to then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad when the courts ruled against the government.
“How did he (retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram) come to know of that? He must be dreaming,” Abu Talib Othman said.
Abu Talib said Sri Ram was not telling the truth and “it is typical of him wanting to have recognition of his standing”.
“I did not complain to the prime minister each and every time the government lost a case,” he told FMT.
Abu Talib said this in response to Sri Ram’s allegation that Mahathir and himself ( Abu Talib) were behind the amendment to the Federal Constitution in 1988, which removed the judicial power of the courts.
Sri Ram alleged that Abu Talib had informed the government that he could not function as “judges were giving him a lot of problems and the solution was to introduce legislation”.
At a Bar Council forum last week, Sri Ram said this came about after the then Supreme Court ruled in the case of Public Prosecutor v Yap Peng that the AG, who is also the public prosecutor, could not at his discretion apply to transfer criminal cases for trial.
In 1987, the apex court in a majority 3-2 ruling held that the public prosecutor’s move to use Section 418A of the Criminal Procedure Code was against Article 121 (1).
The majority held that the power to transfer cases was an exercise of judicial power.
Sri Ram, who was later appointed judge in 1994, said that court ruling resulted in amending article 121 (1), the first in a series of Mahathir’s amendments in 1988.
“It has nothing to do with the 1988 judicial crisis where three Supreme Court judges were removed from office. It has to do with the ego of two men,” he said at the forum.
Mahathir was prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
Abu Talib said his legal advice to the government to amend laws was finally a cabinet decision.
“It is not the prime minister but entirely up to the cabinet to make a decision whether a law should be amended,” he said, adding that his advice to the government to introduce laws was in the interests of the nation and people.
As AG, Abu Talib said he appealed against court decisions only when convinced that the trial judge was wrong in facts and law.
“The judges then make my life interesting, especially when appearing before them and Sri Ram as my opponent,” he added.