Lawyer: Amend laws to punish ‘senior judges’ meddling in judgments

The late Karpal Singh’s daughter Sangeet has lodged a report with the police to investigate Haniff’s claim.

PETALING JAYA: The Federal Constitution and subsidiary laws should be amended to investigate allegations of senior judges interfering in judgments of their subordinates, a lawyer has suggested.

Arun Kasi said the constitution, the Judges’ Code of Ethics 2009 and the Judges’ Ethics Committee Act 2009 did not envisage or provide for a complaint being made against anyone holding administrative positions in the judiciary.

“The recent events have made it necessary for provisions to be made to deal with grievances against those holding such top-most positions,” he said in response to two revelations by a lawyer and a judge.

Arun said the relevant stakeholders should take this seriously and with urgency to consider the necessary amendments.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla was quoted by FMT earlier this week as saying that he was recently informed that a senior judge had reportedly meddled in the majority decision to allow the late Karpal Singh’s appeal and acquit him on a sedition charge.

“The panel was asked to reverse the ruling,” the lawyer, who usually appears for Dr Mahathir Mohamad in civil cases, had said in a Facebook post.

Haniff did not reveal the identity of the judge but claimed that due to his interference, if correct, Karpal, who was a politician and senior member of the legislature, could not clear his name even after his death.

Karpal’s daughter Sangeet, who is also a lawyer, lodged a report with the police to investigate Haniff’s claim.

Karpal was charged with saying the removal of Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as menteri besar by the late Perak sultan, Sultan Azlan Shah, and the appointment of Zambry Abdul Kadir in his place, could be questioned in court.

On May 30, 2016, his conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in a majority 2-1 ruling.

On Aug 16, sitting Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer told an international law conference that he was “severely reprimanded” by a “top judge” for his dissenting judgment in the M Indira Gandhi unilateral conversion case.

Hamid said he was subsequently not assigned or empanelled to hear cases relating to the Federal Constitution and public interest matters.

Arun said the basic ethical standards that a judge has to comply with were codified in the Judges’ Code of Ethics 2009.

Arun said codes were enacted under the authority given in Article 125 of the constitution and complemented by the Judges’ Ethics Committee Act 2009.

He said if a judge breached the code, there was a procedure for complaint.

He said a complaint could be made to the chief justice (CJ) who could dismiss it after consultation with the Court of Appeal (COA) president, Chief Judge of Malaya (CJM) and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak (CJSS).

“The CJ can refer the complaints to the Judges’ Ethics Committee which may upon due enquiry dismiss the complaint, issue a warning or suspend the judge for a period not exceeding one year,” he said.

Alternatively, Arun said the CJ could make a representation, after consultation with the prime minister and the king, to appoint a tribunal to investigate the matter.

“If the tribunal recommends removal of the judge, then the king may do so,” he said.

Arun said under the above procedures, the initial and crucial control was with four judicial administrators — CJ, COA president, CJM and CJSS.

“Apart from that, the control is also with the prime minister in cases of matters to be referred to the king for representation to set up the tribunal,” he added.

However, Arun said the two events in Karpal and Hamid Sultan’s cases have shown the current procedures may not work when there was interference from a “top judge”.