PETALING JAYA: Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram has criticised the prime minister’s chief adviser Daim Zainuddin for applying pressure in demanding the resignations of the Chief Justice and the president of the Court of Appeal.
“It is unconstitutional and wrong for a person other than the prime minister to summon the Chief Justice or indeed any other judge for any reason whatsoever,” Sri Ram said in a statement.
“Daim is not the PM and even if he had been asked by the PM to do what he did, he should have declined and left it to the attorney-general, the PM and the Cabinet to handle this,” he said.
At the same time, he criticised the two judges for having gone to meet Daim, and also for having accepted new contracts beyond the mandatory retirement ages which he said caused them to being subjected to humiliation — “treated no better than office boys”.
Sri Ram urged that government leaders show respect for constitutional procedures and not repeat practices of the past when there was no respect for the separation of power.
Sri Ram said it was an open secret that Daim, chairman of the advisory Council of Eminent Persons, had recently summoned Chief Justice, Md Raus Sharif, and the Appeal Court president, Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, to his private office in Jalan Ampang and demanded their resignations.
He said what happened was quite wrong although it may have been motivated by the best of intentions. Sri Ram said such a precedent would open floodgates for future interferences.
At the same time, he also criticised the judges for having gone to meet Daim at his request. Had the two judges believed that they were justified in continuing in service, they should have declined the invitation with dignity,” he said.
The practice of the old days, when there was no respect for the separation of powers and observance of constitutional requirements, should not be repeated, said Sri Ram, a former judge of the Federal Court.
Raus and Zulkefli have both faced public criticism for accepting an extension of their service on new contracts beyond the mandatory retirement age. The Bar Council and the Sarawak Bar have filed a challenge to the Federal Court on their extended contracts.
Politicians such as Lim Kit Siang and others have demanded their resignations.
Sri Ram said if a Chief Justice felt the need to resign, he would meet the prime minister and hand in a letter addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as provided under Article 125 of the Federal Constitution.
Sri Ram said the prime minister was head of the executive, the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat the head of the legislature and the Chief Justice was head of the judiciary.
“The reality is that the CJ must liaise with the PM when dealing with appointments, promotions and departures (including retirements and resignations),” Sri Ram said.
Sri Ram also urged both to resign at once and not insist on the seven-man Federal Court bench to deliver judgment on the legal challenge, as this would impose “an impossible burden on their fellow judges”.
The alternative was for the Attorney-General to write to the court informing the judges that the current government no longer supported the appointments as being constitutional.
“That would render a decision unnecessary and provide an easy exit for the CJ and the CoA president,” he added
Raus and Zulkefli were appointed to their positions on April 1 last year, and were scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Sept 27 respectively upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 66 plus six months.
On July 7, however, the previous government announced that Raus would remain in office for three more years from Aug 4, while Zulkefli would remain in his post for two more years from Sept 28.