KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar has welcomed the assurance by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat that judges must act without fear or favour in performing their judicial duties.
“We welcome the statement and trust that she will make the required changes to nurture such a climate and give effect to such a mandate,” Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said.
He said a proper and comprehensive complaint and disciplinary mechanism needs to also be put in place to encourage judicial accountability.
“In order for judges to heed and embrace her call, there must be a fostering of a fertile space for judges to feel free to express and participate in the judicial system,” he told FMT
He said this in response to Tengku Maimun’s speech that judges are lions in their own den and need not show loyalty to their superiors.
“The chief justice, Court of Appeal president, chief judges (CJ) of Malaya and, Sabah and Sarawak are not your bosses, like in an agency or department, who give directives,” she said.
Tengku Maimun said these four administrators were only “the first among equals” in the judicial hierarchy.
Judicial commissioners (JCs) need not demonstrate their loyalty to their immediate bosses and the government before elevation as High Court judges, she added.
“The loyalty that is expected from you is allegiance to defend the principle of the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and uphold the rule of law,” she said in her speech after witnessing the appointments of 13 JCs on Thursday.
Fareed also commended the Judicial Appointments Commission for taking into consideration consistent calls from the Bars to appoint more lawyers as judges.
Nine of the 13 appointees were lawyers from the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak, which are governed by three separate Bars.
“Their appointments will augur well and enrich the judiciary as they bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience in wide areas of the law,” Fareed said.
‘Stop practice of appointing managing judges’
Meanwhile, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said Tengku Maimun should also consider discontinuing the practice of appointing managing judges from the Federal Court or Court of Appeal to oversee High Court judges as this was against Section 20 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 (CoJA).
He said what was being done now amounted to an interference in the independence of the judges in the High Court as they were supposed to be left to manage their own courts.
Section 20 states that the distribution of business among the judges of the High Court should be made in accordance with directions given by the chief judge of Malaya, or of Sabah and Sarawak.
“The appointment of managing judges also eats into the power of the chief judge and renders him ineffective,” Syed Iskandar said, adding that the present system was also open to abuse.
He said the appointment of managing judges was akin to closely observing the JCs.
Other steps to remove the underperforming ones from the system should be adopted instead, he added.