Poor judgments a reflection of today’s judiciary, says ex-judge

gopal-sri-ram-1PETALING JAYA: Many candidates appointed from the Judicial and Legal Service are not up to mark to perform their judicial duties as they cannot even grasp basic legal concepts, a former judge said.

Gopal Sri Ram said this was especially glaring in the High Court as they had little or no idea about commercial law.

“That is why the quality of judgments delivered are suffering,” said Sri Ram who retired as a Federal Court judge in 2010.

He said at one time Singapore used to quote cases on commercial law delivered by Malaysian judges, mostly from the service, as they were interested in the law and had mastered the English language.

“Today, the legal foundation of some of the judges from the service is very weak or in some cases non-existent,” he said.

Sri Ram, who was practising law before being appointed a Court of Appeal judge in 1994, said some judges struggled to deliver proper judgments as they did not have an understanding of basic concepts.

On the other hand, Sri Ram said, those who came from the Bar were very successful on the bench because they were confident of their legal knowledge.

“But there are some judges from the service, and currently in the Court of Appeal, who are excellent in civil, criminal and constitutional law,” said Sri Ram who has delivered about 800 judgments, some of them landmark rulings.

He said personalities did not matter when judgments were delivered as “judges cannot discriminate between rich and poor and between the weak and the powerful”.

“It does not matter how high a position a person holds as the law is above him. That is a concept judges must realise,” he added.

He said this in response to a blog post by former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim who lamented that the judicial system was deteriorating due to the indifference of many judges and lawyers.

Zaid, a lawyer, said too much indifference allowed for “crooks to rule and for integrity to be sold to the highest bidder”.

He said the deterioration of the judiciary had happened gradually due to an overwhelming number of lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) being elevated as judges. They tended to be pro-government on the bench, he said.

Zaid said the Bar had also contributed to the declining ethical and professional standards in the judiciary as some senior lawyers would rather not get involved in controversies, like the passing of resolutions that were unfavourable to the chief justice or the prime minister.

Sri Ram said some of the lawyers who took up controversial cases had no interest in law and lacked court craft.

“These people have not bothered to increase their knowledge by reading and like some judges, have no clue as to what has been happening in common law countries such as England, the United States, India, Australia, or New Zealand,” he added.