Eminent persons in JAC must resign too, say legal experts

From left: Arifin Zakaria, Anantham Kasinather, Abdul Razak Tready and Choong Yeow Choy.

PETALING JAYA: Legal experts today said that four eminent persons appointed by former prime minister Najib Razak to recommend candidates for appointments and promotions in the judiciary should resign of their own accord.

Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram and lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said it would be better for the four to relinquish their positions instead of being sacked as provided for under the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Act.

This would allow Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to appoint fit and proper candidates of his own choice, they added.

On April 17, Najib had appointed former chief justice Arifin Zakaria, retired Court of Appeal judge Anantham Kasinather, former Sarawak attorney-general Abdul Razak Tready and Universiti Malaya (UM) law professor Choong Yeow Choy as eminent persons for a two-year term.

He also appointed Federal Court judge Azahar Mohamed to the JAC.

Chief Justice Raus Sharif, Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum were also members by virtue of their administrative posts in the judiciary.

Speaking to FMT, Sri Ram said the four eminent persons should resign as they owed their appointments to an individual who was no longer the prime minister.

“Also, it cannot be ruled out that these persons were chosen by the former prime minister for an ulterior purpose,” he added.

Otherwise, he questioned why a qualified and learned scholar like former judge Visu Sinnadurai, who had been up for appointment, was ditched at the last minute.

“Surely this casts serious doubt on the motive of the former prime minister,” he said.

Sri Ram added that there was now a new Cabinet in place, and an attorney-general who could recommend new appointees to Mahathir.

He said JAC’s acquiescence to the appointment of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges to remain as chief justice and Court of Appeal president also cast doubts on its independence.

He was responding to provisions in the JAC Act allowing the resignation of the eminent persons or their removal by the prime minister without any reason given.

The eminent persons are paid a monthly allowance of RM9,000.

Syed Iskandar agreed that the four should voluntarily resign or face termination.

“It can be implied that their tenure was only valid as long as Najib was in power. They cannot remain in the JAC to advise Mahathir,” he said.

He added that it was better for them to vacate their positions as they could have contributed to controversy in allowing Raus and Zulkefli to remain in office beyond their mandatory retirement age.

Sarawak lawyers group calls for top 2 judges to step down