Lawyers: Top two judges’ early departure won’t affect court rulings

The resignations of Chief Justice Raus Sharif (right) and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin take effect on July 31. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin can leave office earlier without affecting pending judgments.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said the judgments could be delivered by the remaining judges who heard a case together as Sections 42 and 78 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 allowed a judgment to be delivered by a minimum of two judges.

He said usually a panel of three judges in the Court of Appeal heard appeals from the lower courts while it was five in the Federal Court.

As Court of Appeal head, he said, Zulkefli could sit as chairman of a bench but most of the time he sat in the Federal Court.

“Even if both Raus and Zulkefli were on the Federal Court bench, there are three other judges to deliver the judgment,” he told FMT.

Syed Iskandar said this in response to Raus and Zulkelfi’s resignations taking effect on July 31 to allow all judicial affairs to be completed.

The lawyer said judicial affairs could only mean they wanted to deliver written judgments before leaving.

Both sent their resignations on June 8 to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who gave his consent.

However, retired judges Gopal Sri Ram and Hishamudin Mohd Yunus and lawyer Ramkarpal Singh had said the two should not delay their departure.

“It is appropriate that they should resign because their appointments are unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid in the first place,” Hishamudin said last week.

Sri Ram said July 31 was too long a wait as their immediate departure could pave the way for the promotion of deserving judges.

Ramkarpal, who is Bukit Gelugor MP, shared the views of Hishamudin and Sri Ram.

Lawyer S N Nair said both Raus and Zulkelfi could stay on if there were pending matters which would cause prejudice to the administration of justice.

“Only in this circumstance can it be justified for them to delay their departure,” he said.

Apart from that, Nair said Raus and Zulkefli could vacate their positions sooner as their departure would not prejudice any court rulings in a bench that they had presided.

He said Sections 42 and 78 had provided for a situation where judgments would not be affected if one or two judges were not available due to illness or any other causes, like resignations.

Nair said an appeal could be reheard even if two judges were to make a ruling but were divided in their opinion.

“However, this has not happened. Usually, at least three or four judges remained on the bench in the apex court to deliver their verdict,” he added.

Raus and Zulkefli were pressured to step down since last July when the previous government announced that they would remain in their posts past the mandatory retirement age of 66 years and six months prescribed in the Federal Constitution.

Both were appointed to their positions on April 1 last year, and were scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Sept 27 respectively.

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.

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