Court of Appeal president is acting CJ for now, says ex-judge

PETALING JAYA: A former judge says the next in line in the judicial ladder should take over the duties of chief justice without the need for formal appointment, amid speculation over who will be made the new top judge following Richard Malanjum’s retirement last week.

Gopal Sri Ram said this is enshrined in Article 131A of the Federal Constitution and Section 9 of the Courts of Judicature Act.

“The constitution and Courts of Judicature Act state that the Court of Appeal president will perform the duties and function of the chief justice in the event of a vacancy,” he told FMT.

This makes Court of Appeal president Ahmad Maarop the acting chief justice by operation of law, he added.

Malanjum, who led the judiciary for nine months, demitted his office on Thursday and went on leave, a day before his official retirement.

Sri Ram said Ahmad would perform the duties and functions of the chief justice, including rostering panel members to hear cases in the apex court.

“He will also continue to function as head of the Court of Appeal,” he said.

He said the last time this had happened was in 2000, when Lamin Mohd Yunus took over from Mohamed Eusoff Chin following the latter’s retirement.

“Lamin assumed the position for a short time before Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah was appointed chief justice,” he said.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government already has a candidate in mind to replace Malanjum. However, he did not disclose the name.

This comes amid intense speculation over who will be made chief justice, as Ahmad retires in November.

Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim, who is third in line, will leave office next month.

Two women judges, Alizatul Khir Osman Khairuddin and Rohana Yusuf, have been touted as possible candidates for the post, with former solicitor-general Idrus Harun, who is now a Federal Court judge, also said to be in the running.