CJ as additional judge: A question of propriety


PETALING JAYA: Former Malaysian Bar president Ragunath Kesavan has questioned the propriety of having Md Raus Sharif serve as both chief justice and an additional Federal Court judge.

“He can’t be chief justice and an additional judge at the same time because additional judges and the chief justice are different in terms of ranking,” Ragunath told FMT.

“The additional judge falls right at the bottom of the judges’ list in the Federal Court while the chief justice is right at the top.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

However, Ragunath said he would be open to an alternative interpretation if Raus had nominated himself to be an additional Federal Court judge before his previous tenure ended.

“The Federal Constitution doesn’t say that as chief justice you cannot recommend yourself as an additional judge,” he said.

The government controversially decided last month to extend Raus’s term as chief justice and Zulkelfi Ahmad Makinudin’s term as Court of Appeal president beyond their mandatory retirement age by way of appointing them as additional judges in the Federal Court.

The Bar Council has said the decision was constitutionally wrong.

Raus has acknowledged that the appointment was unprecedented, but he said it was legal, pointing out that the Federal Constitution gives the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the power to appoint judges.

But Ragunath said: “If the contractual appointment goes on and on, where is the full stop? There must be a reason why you have to resort to this situation.”

Andrew Khoo, a member of the Bar Council, said it was contradictory for Raus to serve in both positions.

He said: “An additional judge is the last in the order of preference of the judiciary of the Federal Court, according to Article 122 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

“To say otherwise is to defy logic, common sense and, most importantly, the Federal Constitution.”

He said the question of whether it was constitutional for a chief justice to nominate himself as an additional judge did not arise because “Raus did not nominate Raus.”

The Bar Council announced last week that it would file a suit to challenge the appointments of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges as a way of extending their tenures.