Ambiga: Parliament shouldn’t interfere in appointment of judges

PUTRAJAYA: Former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan today warned against appointing judges after going through Parliament, saying this would be against the doctrine of separation of powers.

Instead, she suggested that the status of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) be raised to a constitutional body in the appointment and promotion of judges to the superior courts.

“Parliament should not interfere in the appointment of judges as that violates the doctrine of separation of powers,” she told reporters here.

The doctrine of separation of powers is also known as the checks and balances system, where the three branches – executive, legislature and judiciary – keep tabs on each other and counteract any imbalance in power.

Ambiga urged Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to reconsider the proposal for the appointment of judges to go through Parliament.

She said the JAC was relevant, and the Federal Constitution would need to be amended to elevate the status of the body.

“The opposition should support such an amendment to accept the recommendations of the JAC,” she added.

This follows Mahathir’s statement that the appointment of judges and certain other positions would go through Parliament before the names are submitted to the Agong.

He said a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) would be introduced to vet candidates for the positions before their names are submitted to the king.

“Judges do not have to be afraid to carry out their duties fairly,” he said at the monthly assembly of the Prime Minister’s Department yesterday.

Former Malaysian Bar president Zainur Zakaria previously told FMT that Article 122 B of the constitution states that the king appoints judges on the advice of the prime minister after consulting the Conference of Rulers.

He said the prime minister played a role in the appointment of all judges, including the elevation of four judicial officers to hold administrative positions.

He said this was a constitutional requirement and there was no way of appointing judges by sidelining the prime minister.

“The Federal Constitution does not allow, or is silent on allowing, anyone except the prime minister to advise the king on the appointment of judicial officers,” he said.

Ambiga, who is a member of the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC), also urged the government to make public the findings of the group which were submitted in July.

The report contains recommendations for reforming Parliament, elections, the judiciary, law officers and the legal service, anti-corruption agencies, police and immigration forces, communications media and information as well as human rights.

The IRC was formed shortly after the May 9 election to complement the Council of Eminent Persons on matters of institutional reform.