Form committee to speed up judicial reform, ex-Bar chief tells CJ

Lawyers have called the executive including the prime minister to stay out of judicial appointments to ensure independence of the judiciary.

PETALING JAYA: A former Malaysian Bar president has urged Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat to set up a high powered consultative committee to expedite reforms in the judiciary.

Ragunath Kesavan said a lot needed to be done, especially in providing access to justice for the ordinary man coming to the courts.

“We need to think out of the box and the committee needs to be established to get views from all stakeholders before reforms are carried out,” he told FMT.

Ragunath said this in response to Tengku Maimun’s pledge earlier this week that she wanted to continue efforts to improve the judicial system in the country.

Tengku Maimun had said she would go ahead with the agenda of reform in the judicial system that her predecessor had worked for, before continuing with new reforms.

Tengku Maimun, 60, made history as the first woman to hold the judiciary’s top post on May 2.

Ragunath said for a start the committee could refer to proposals made to the government last year by the Institutional Reform Committee chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge K C Vohrah.

He said the National Legal Aid Foundation must be strengthened to ensure the poor and needy were represented by counsel during remand, bail and trial, especially when offences carried heavy jail terms.

“The rule of law must be the foundation to ensure the administration of justice is evident in the court system,” he added.

Ragunath said the Judicial Appointments Commission should be given the power to recommend judges straight to the Conference of Rulers instead of the executive.

Ragunath Kesavan.

“The role of the prime minister in the judicial appointment process should be removed to ensure independence of the judiciary,” he said.

Meanwhile, another former Bar president, George Varughese, said more reforms needed to be introduced in the lower courts, High Courts and the Court of Appeal.

He said touting needed to be addressed as there were certain groups out to fleece the gullible family members of suspects and accused persons.

“Help desks must be set up by competent staff at busy court complexes like Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur to assist the public who are at times lost over locating courtrooms,” he said.

Varughese said judges’ remuneration and pension must be reviewed to stop allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

“It may not be the immediate priority of the CJ who retires in 2025 but she could address this important issue when the nation’s economy improves,” he said.

Varughese said the committee must include government representatives to ensure proposals were not scuttled due to lack of funds.

He said Richard Malanjum, during his nine-month stint, had left a lasting impression and Tengku Maimun should be given all the support to overhaul the judicial system to be on par with that of other developed countries.

During Malanjum’s 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.

Malanjum also launched the “Courtroom to School” programme to give students exposure to the judiciary, understand the Federal Constitution and respect for rule of law.