Don’t delay judgment on appointments of top judges, say lawyers

PUTRAJAYA: Lawyers have urged the seven-member Federal Court bench to quickly deliver its decision on whether the appointments of Chief Justice (CJ) Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges are constitutional.

They said it had been two months since the bench adjourned the decision, adding that the latest political developments called for a quick resolution.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said the legal fraternity and public were expecting a ruling to bring about certainty and finality.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and the court’s decision will determine the way forward for the judiciary,” he told FMT.

Syed Iskandar was responding to reports of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad meeting Raus and Zulkefli at the Perdana Leadership Foundation yesterday.

It is unclear what transpired at the meeting.

The lawyer said it was also untenable for Raus and Zulkefli to remain in office due to the negative perception of the judiciary following their appointments last year, as well as several questionable decisions.

FMT understands that one of the ideas being floated is for the two to vacate their office first, and then for the court to deliver a “no ruling” on grounds that it was now an academic exercise.

The other is for the two to remain but to wait for the outcome of the ruling.

Lawyer R Kengadharan said there was no clear provision in the Federal Constitution for Raus and Zulkelfi to continue holding their administrative positions in their capacity as additional judges.

“So, the bench should no longer delay in delivering its judgment as everyone is eagerly awaiting how the judges interpret the articles in the constitution to declare whether their appointments are legal or otherwise,” he said.

Kengadharan said a grave constitutional crisis had developed since last year over the appointments as it involved the Malaysian judiciary.

He said judges who had been sympathetic to the past Barisan Nasional administration and who had refused to uphold the constitution and rule of law should resign.

“The people have a right to demand that the government restores the lost integrity of the judiciary,” he said.

Raus and Zulkefli were appointed as CJ and Court of Appeal president on April 1. They were scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Sept 27 respectively upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 66 plus six months.

The government, however, announced on July 7 that Raus would remain in office for another three years from Aug 4, while Zulkefli would remain in his post for another two years from Sept 28.

Mahathir filed a judicial review to challenge the appointment but the High Court in November declined to hear the merit of the case on grounds that there was no written law for then-prime minister Najib Razak to advise the king to revoke the appointments.

The Pakatan Harapan chairman has since filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

The Malaysian Bar and Advocates Association of Sarawak managed to bring the matter straight to the Federal Court, with the bench led by Hasan Lah hearing the case on March 14.

The other six judges on the bench were Zainun Ali, Ramly Ali, Zaharah Ibrahim, Balia Yusof Wahi, Aziah Ali and Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin.

Lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan, who represented the Bar, said the appointments of Raus and Zulkefli would affect the independence of the judiciary because they touched on the security of tenure.

“The consequences are far-reaching and it is a burdensome task (for the seven judges). However, the onus is on the judiciary to show compliance to the Federal Constitution,” she said.

Government lawyer Amarjeet Singh argued that the constitution must be given a wide interpretation and that the appointments were legal.

He said the government’s media statement on July 7 made it clear that Raus and Zulkefli would be made additional judges after each of them reached the age of 66 and six months.

“They are therefore eligible to continue as CJ and Court of Appeal president because they took office soon after retirement,” he said.

The Muslim Lawyers Association, which was allowed to be intervener, supported the government’s submission and went on to say the status of additional judges was not inferior to regular judges.

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