PETALING JAYA: A retired judge today called for Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin to immediately vacate their posts and pave the way for the promotion of deserving judges.
Gopal Sri Ram said July 31 was too long a wait, considering the fact that the legal profession, the public and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad wanted the two to go.
“Given that their appointments are under a cloud, they should go at once,” he told FMT.
Sri Ram said by postponing their departures, Raus and Zulkefli were hurting the chances of Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum and senior Federal Court judge Zainun Ali serving as chief justice.
However, he added, if the Pakatan Harapan government obtained a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the Federal Constitution could be amended to increase the age of retirement to 70, in which case Malanjum and Zainun would not be prejudiced.
He was responding to a statement by the Chief Registrar’s Office that Raus and Zulkefli’s departure would be delayed to allow all judicial matters to be completed.
Sri Ram, who retired as a Federal Court judge, said the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) would recommend names for promotion to the prime minister.
“However, the prime minister is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the JAC,” he said.
Raus is chairman of the nine-man JAC while Zulkelfi is his deputy.
Zainun is scheduled for retirement on Oct 10, after serving a six-month extension, while Malanjum will retire on Oct 12.
It is unclear whether Malanjum has obtained an extension to remain in office until April.
Meanwhile, retired government lawyer Stanley Isaacs said the inference of a resignation was that Raus and Zulkefli’s appointments were constitutionally correct and legal, but that they had chosen to leave office due to pressure.
“Their appointments can become a wrong precedent. This should not be so when their appointments were challenged as being unconstitutional and void ab initio,” said Isaacs, who was once the head of the civil division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Isaacs said either the king should revoke their appointments on the advice of the prime minister, or the Federal Court should be allowed to make its now pending decision.
Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said the seven-man bench should deliver its judgment on a constitutional reference made by the Malaysian Bar and Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS).
“Regardless of whether Raus and Zulkefli have tendered their resignations, the bench must deliver its findings on how it interpreted provisions in the constitution to declare their appointments as legal or otherwise,” he said.
Syed Jaafar said the matter was not academic as the litigants had posed several important constitutional questions that could be useful for future guidance.
“The judges must not abdicate their duties as they have taken the judicial oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution,” he added.
The bench chaired by justice Hasan Lah heard submissions from government lawyers and counsel for the Bar, AAS, Muslim Lawyers Association and Sabah Law Society on March 14.