PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar’s attempt to speak on the appointment of two top judicial officers at the opening of the Judicial Year last week reflects its lack of decorum, a retired judge said.
Gopal Sri Ram said it was improper to do so since the Bar had passed a resolution and had filed a legal challenge that was now before the Federal Court.
However, Sri Ram said the Bar had every right to express its views elsewhere, like the position stated by president George Varughese at its own Opening of the Legal Year (OLY) at a private club on Thursday.
“The Bar is an equal partner with the Judiciary and the Attorney-General’s Chambers in the administration of justice, but there is something called decorum and propriety when the appointments are before the courts,” he told FMT.
The former Federal Court judge said this in response to Varughese’s stand that the Bar had the right to speak openly without being censored, including at the OLY ceremonial proceedings recently where the customary speech of the president was removed.
Varughese said the office of Chief Justice (CJ) Raus Sharif had indicated to him that he should not in his speech mention the controversial appointments of Raus and Court of Appeal (COA) president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges last year.
The appointments had enabled them to continue holding their positions despite being scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Sept 27 respectively, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age.
Sri Ram said in law the case was pending and there was no censorship in that sense.
“It is improper to raise it in the presence of persons whose appointments are being challenged.
“The Bar should have just declined to attend the Judicial Year since it had passed a resolution,” he said.
He said Raus was perfectly entitled to decide that his and Zulkefli’s appointments should not be questioned at the forum.
Sri Ram said he still held the view that it was unconstitutional for an additional judge to hold the administrative positions of CJ, COA, Chief Judge of Malaya and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.
“The judiciary is not the civil service where you can remain after retirement on a contract,” he added.
Since the inception of OLY in 2010, the Bar president has used the occasion to reflect upon and highlight significant developments in relation to the rule of law and the administration of justice that have taken place over the preceding year.
The format of the OLY ceremony, renamed as Judicial Year, was changed to only Raus taking the rostrum.
Raus, after the Judicial Year opening on Friday, said that since Varughese’s speech was excluded, he had informed Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali that it was not necessary for him to speak as it would look awkward.