KUALA LUMPUR: The revelation yesterday that a judge who sided with a non-Muslim woman in her custody battle against her convert husband, was reprimanded by a top judge as a serious allegation, says retired judge Gopal Sri Ram.
He said the identity of the top judge mentioned by Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, one of three judges who presided over the case involving kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi over the unilateral conversion of her children, should be revealed, as it amounted to a serious interference with the function of a judge.
“The judge must be named and shamed,” he told FMT, while commending Hamid for the revelation.
Hamid had delivered a dissenting judgment in upholding the ruling of the High Court in Ipoh where Indira had sought to nullify the conversion certificates of her three minor children.
He told a legal conference yesterday that following his judgment, he was not assigned to hear cases related to the constitution and public interest matters.
“Immediately after the judgment was released to the public, a top judge called up the entire Coram and severely reprimanded me, alleging, inter alia, judicial activism, and not only that, he started throwing tantrums at me in an uncivilised manner,” he said.
Early this year, the Federal Court affirmed Hamid’s finding and allowed Indira’s appeal.
Sri Ram said Hamid’s revelation was a source of concern in the work of a judge in performing his judicial duty.
“He is not answerable to anyone unless he had attacked an innocent third person in his judgment without giving opportunity to be heard. In such a case, the judge should be brought before a tribunal,” he said.
Sri Ram said a judge was a “lion in his court”.
“No superior judge, including those holding administrative positions, from the same court or superior court had the right to interfere in how a judgment was delivered.
“Only a superior court could correct or uphold the judgment following an appeal,” he added.
Meanwhile, retired Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus said a royal commission of inquiry should be formed to look into Hamid’s claim.
“Allegations of judicial interference on a judge by a top judge who in the first place has been entrusted to protect the independence of the judiciary and the independence of judges is serious,” he said.
Hamid had his 2016 judgment upheld in an earlier ruling by the Ipoh High Court granting Indira the custody of her children. Two other judges, Balia Yusof Wahi and Badariah Sahamid, set aside the High Court decision.
On Jan 29 this year, a five-member Federal Court bench chaired by Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin affirmed Hamid’s finding and allowed Indira’s appeal.