PETALING JAYA: Laws must be amended to remove the prime minister from having a hand in the appointment and promotion of judges to ensure judicial independence, the Malaysian Bar said.
Its president George Varughese said the prime minister currently could disregard proposals submitted by the Judicial Appointments Commission to him.
“Effectively, the prime minister has the veto power and he becomes the sole appointee,” he told FMT.
Varughese said the Federal Constitution and the Judicial Appointments Commission Act had to be amended to prevent any executive interference.
He said the setting up of the commission in 2009 was in the right direction but the process of appointing and elevating judges was far from satisfactory.
Varughese 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 substantial number of lawyers from the Bar were not appointed to the bench as the government perceived them to be more sympathetic towards the opposition parties and civil society.
Zaid said the Bar had also contributed to the declining ethical and professional standards in the judiciary as some senior lawyers shunned from action that could earn the displeasure of the chief justice or the prime minister.
Varughese said it was a fallacy to believe judges from private practice made unfavourable rulings against the executive and government agencies.
“Their decisions are to ensure the rule of law prevails and they uphold the constitution,” he said, adding that judges were expected to do that when they took their judicial oath.
He said judges from the Bar provided sound judgments in commercial disputes due to their expertise and experience, having known well the intricacies of the business environment.
Varughese, who is also a member of the Legal Profession Qualifying Board, said the Bar had been advocating the Common Bar Course to ensure a minimum standard for lawyers employed in the public and private sectors.
“The Bar also conducts continuing professional development programmes for lawyers that gives them an opportunity and avenue to update themselves on the latest in law and lawyering skills,” he said.
Varughese said the court’s implementation of the key performance index had also caused judges to hurry justice.
“The knock-on effect is that poor quality cause papers and submissions are filed by lawyers, and judges deliver inferior judgments,” he said.
Varughese said justice could not be measured by statistics alone as speedy justice might amount to justice being denied.