Culture of postponement creeping back into judicial system, says CJ

Chief Justice Raus Sharif says he will not entertain blanket applications for the postponement of cases by judges. (Twitter pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Chief Justice Raus Sharif today expressed concern that the habit of postponing cases by judges and counsel had begun to creep back into the judicial system, causing delays in the adjudication process.

He said he was concerned that this could impede the judicial reform programme carried out since late 2008.

Raus, who had been involved in the programme since the beginning, had encouraged all quarters to inculcate a culture of certainty in trial and hearing dates in all courts throughout the country.

He said adjournment of trials must be a rarity, adding that in developed countries, such a practice did not exist.

“We must not allow the culture of requesting for postponements. I want everyone to be strict on this issue,” he said when opening the 52nd judges conference here, today.

Also present were Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, Federal Court judges, High Court judges and judicial commissioners.

Raus said he would not entertain blanket applications for the postponement of cases by judges citing conferences, annual general meetings or extraordinary general meetings by any party, be it the Bar or the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

He said this included reasons of postponement by counsel on the need to attend Parliament or state assembly sittings, conferences or any other functions.

“The rule is that there shall be no postponement, except in the event of death or near death. This is definitely not a joke. It is a serious matter,” he said.

He also called on judges to take on a stewardship role in managing their cases from the outset, rather than allowing parties alone to dictate the pace of litigation.

The chief justice said judges should not allow themselves to be dictated by the counsel’s tight schedule, readiness and availability, or postponement by reason of the counsel having cases in another court.

As part of the reform success, Raus said, the only old cases pending disposal were cases dated in 2017 which should be disposed at least within the early second half of this year.

As of March 31, he said, 110 pre-2017 appeals were pending at the Federal Court, 214 pre-2017 appeals pending at the Court of Appeal and 1,799 pre-2017 cases pending at High Courts throughout the country.

The breakdown of the pre-2017 civil and criminal cases pending in states are: Selangor, with 491 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur (444 cases), Penang (149 cases), Kedah (126 cases), Johor (124 cases), Sabah (110 cases), Sarawak (88 cases), Perak (64 cases), Negeri Sembilan (52 cases), Terengganu (47 cases), Melaka (43 cases), Pahang (41 cases), Kelantan (12 cases) and Perlis (eight cases).