Chief Justice Malanjum retires, minus the pomp and grandeur

Outgoing Chief Justice Richard Malanjum.

PUTRAJAYA: After nine months of being chief justice, Richard Malanjum retired today sans the pomp and grandeur of the usual farewell given to the head of the judiciary.

In keeping to his principle of leading a simple lifestyle, the top judge even declined a symbolic send-off, like clocking-out on his last day in office.

“He refused an official farewell ceremony even though there was a request from staff,” his special officer Mohd Aizuddin Zolkeply said.

He said his boss had taken leave and is currently overseas.

Malanjum was a practising lawyer before joining the judicial service in 1992 as a judicial commissioner.

He became the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak in 2006 and became the first person from the Borneon states to become the chief justice last July.

Malanjum, who delivered a speech at the elevation ceremony of 10 High Court judges on Tuesday, had reminded them to be always honest and humble.

“Nobody questions your lifestyle if you lead an honest and humble life,” he said, adding that one must follow one’s conscience and do the right thing.

His parting words to judges was to embrace technology in their daily work or else they will be left behind.

However, Aizuddin said Malanjum’s short stint was eventful as he introduced changes for a better administration of justice.

“He implemented the proposals of the Institutional Reform Committee to raise efficiency and eliminate corruption,” said Aizuddin, in reference to the body set up by the Pakatan Harapan government soon after it came to power.

During his tenure, all constitutional cases in the Federal Court were heard by a bench of nine judges. All public interest cases were heard by a seven-member panel.

He also introduced a time-sheet system in the High Court to ensure judges were not accused of playing truant.

To ensure lawyers do not idle around the courtrooms while waiting for their cases to be heard, he placed television monitors at strategic locations in the Palace of Justice to inform them when their cases would start.

He also introduced the e-review of case management, which now sees the process done without the presence of lawyers before court registrars.

“The new case management concept will save the lawyers travelling time and cost,” he said.

He also held public consultations among the lawyers’ groups from the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to expedite trials and appeals.

Early this week, Malanjum was in a secondary school here to launch the “Courtroom to School” programme to give students exposure to the judiciary.

“The judiciary must play a dominant role in creating awareness among the younger generation, especially students, to respect and understand the law,” he said.

Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram said Malanjum was a capable lawyer and fair judge.

“He did not have any preconceived notion and was always open to being convinced,” said Sri Ram, who had sat together with Malanjum in the Court of Appeal.

He said Malanjum had established very high standards and it is left to be seen whether the incoming chief justice will maintain it or let it slip.

Malanjum has delivered numerous landmark decisions, including dissenting judgments, in the areas of criminal, civil, administrative and constitutional law.

Last week, a nine-member bench led by him struck down a provision in the Dangerous Drugs Act as unconstitutional as it did not accord a fair trial to accused persons.

Academician Shad Saleem Faruqi described Malanjum as a man who possessed a remarkable social conscience.

In the remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak, he said Malanjum started an outreach programme of mobile courts to help citizens with such matters as birth certificates, MyKads and small claims.

He said under Malanjum’s leadership, the legal community in Sabah involved itself in environmental activities and legal aid.