Azahar Mohamed next top judge of Malaysia?

Senior Federal Court judge Azahar Mohamed.

PETALING JAYA: Senior Federal Court judge Azahar Mohamed is likely to be appointed the next chief justice, the post left vacant following the retirement of Richard Malanjum, sources said.

A source said the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) submitted two additional names following a request by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad early this month.

The JAC had earlier proposed only one name for the post.

Azahar, 63, was made Federal Court judge in 2014 and has vast experience in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) before his elevation to the bench.

“He is suitable for the post as he will have three years to continue with the reforms in the judiciary started by Malanjum,” the source told FMT.

Moreover, he was also seen as competent, both as judge and administrator, when appointed managing judge of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Azahar was appointed as judicial commissioner in 2004. He was elevated as High Court judge two years later before being promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2011.

He is currently in the nine-member JAC that recommends judges for promotion.

The source said the other potential candidate for the position is Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, 59, who was elevated to the apex court in November last year.

If appointed, she will create history as the first woman to be made top judge.

“However, Tengku Maimun could be considered for the post of Chief Judge of Malaya, which will fall vacant following the retirement of Zaharah Ibrahim next month.

“She could also be considered for the position of the president of the Appeal Court that is currently held by Ahmad Maarop, who will retire in November,” said the source, adding that Tengku Maimun has six more years on the bench.

The mandatory retirement age for judges is 66 plus six months of extension.

Meanwhile, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land, must be in the safe hands of whoever is appointed to the top post.

“Apart from hearing civil and criminal appeals, our apex court judges are invited from time to time to interpret the constitution,” he said.

On April 19, Mahathir said the nomination of the candidate to replace Malanjum, who retired a week earlier (April 12), is awaiting approval from the Conference of Rulers.

“It seems there is a provision for the appointment to be submitted to the Conference of Rulers, and not just to the Agong.

“We have informed the Agong. There is a need for him to inform the other rulers, so that is being done now and we are waiting for them to give the approval,” Mahathir told a press conference.

Under Article 112B, the king appoints judges, including the top four judicial administrators on the advice of the prime minister after consulting the Conference of Rulers.

It is learnt that the Rulers are scheduled to meet early next month.