Pick credible judges for apex court, say legal eagles

Integrity and leadership qualities are a must for the job, say lawyers on criteria for the appointment of Federal Court judges.

PETALING JAYA: The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) must conduct proper background checks before recommending judges for the Federal Court, say legal experts.

They said integrity and leadership qualities are a must for the job.

Lawyer Abdul Shukor Ahmad said apex court judges must possess unquestionable integrity, adding that race and religion could never form the criteria for their appointment.

“The selection process must be guided by an objective assessment,” he told FMT while discussing the scheduled retirements of top judges later this year.

Chief Justice Richard Malanjum is scheduled to retire in April while Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim will retire in May.

Another four Federal Court judges are scheduled to retire in rapid succession between this month and year end.

Lawyer Ragunath Kesavan said an RCI formed by the government should not affect the selection of judges by the JAC.

“The new appointments must instil public confidence and those entrusted to hold administrative positions must also continue to carry out the reform agenda started by Malanjum,” said Ragunath, a former Malaysian Bar president.

He added that the JAC should identify judges with impeccable credibility, even if it meant sourcing candidates from the High Court and among lawyers.

The government has announced the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to probe judicial misconduct allegations made by Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer.

Meanwhile, former federal court judge Gopal Sri Ram said some judges appointed to the apex court last year lacked experience, adding that retired judges should be given a chance as additional judges.

“Experienced lawyers from the Bar can also be appointed straight to the Federal Court as was done in the case of Zaki Azmi who eventually became the chief justice,” he said.