Judges want financial autonomy from PM’s department, says source

PETALING JAYA: The judiciary wants financial independence in managing its affairs instead of parking its annual budget with the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD), a source says.

The source said currently, the annual budget for salaries, building maintenance and contracts was handled by a senior civil servant, and bureaucratic practices were involved in getting allocations approved.

“The money is parked there (the PMD) and it takes time for allocations to be released,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The source told FMT that at times, their allocations were cut due to austerity drives but without consultation.

The judiciary is allocated about RM450 million a year, which includes the salaries of judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

The source said this would be a timely move, given that even the Malaysian legislature wants its management to be independent of the executive.

Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming recently said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was considering reinstating the Parliamentary Service Act 1963, to give Parliament autonomy over its administration.

Johari Abdul, the PH MP for Sungai Petani, during the debate on the king’s address, had urged the government to consider reinstating the act to restore the integrity of Parliament.

Johari said funds should be allocated directly to the institution, instead of through the PMD, and this should also be the case for the appointment of staff.

Meanwhile, former Malaysian Bar president Ragunath Kesavan said he welcomed the judiciary’s attempt to ask for financial independence although it was long overdue.

“In the past, the Bar advocated this idea as the judiciary must totally be independent from the executive, including in financial matters,” he said.

Ragunath however said a CEO and support staff must be appointed to manage the annual allocation.

“All expenditure and contracts must be audited to ensure no wastage and overpricing of items,” he said.

Ragunath noted that there was, for instance, minimum consultation with the judiciary and the Bar when government agencies constructed court buildings.

“The current court structure is not practical because every High Court and lower court judge has a courtroom and chambers. There is no optimum use of resources,” he said.

He said in Singapore, judges shared common courtrooms while their chambers were located elsewhere.

“This is good because judges can interact face to face and share common facilities like the library,” he added.