Interview judges before considering promotions, Sri Ram tells JAC

Retired judge Gopal Sri Ram says the Judicial Appointments Commission must show its transparency in the elevation of judges to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

PETALING JAYA: A retired judge has urged the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) to conduct a thorough interview of candidates to show its transparency in the elevation of judges to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

Gopal Sri Ram said the JAC should also examine the quality of the candidates’ written judgments.

“The candidates should also be rigorously interviewed about their approach to civil, criminal and constitutional law, and queried on recent advancements in Commonwealth laws,” he told FMT.

Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, said JAC’s current practice is to only meet potential candidates who apply to become judicial commissioners before they are confirmed as High Court judges.

“JAC actually recommends judges to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court,” he said. “As such, only the best legal brains should be promoted.”

He was responding to a speech by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat after the oath-taking ceremony of Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf and eight other judges who were elevated to the superior courts yesterday.

Tengku Maimun, who is also the JAC chairman, said each member is entitled to a single vote by secret ballot. In the event of a tie, the chairman has the deciding vote.

She said the selection mechanism proves that appointments are a collective decision and not made by the chief justice alone.

FMT understands that she made the clarification in response to the perception that those appointed were close to her.

Zaleha Yusuf, Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim were elevated to the Federal Court while Hadhariah Syed Ismail, M Nantha Balan and Abu Bakar Jais were promoted as Court of Appeal judges.

Sri Ram questioned the extent to which JAC had functioned effectively in the latest appointments.

He also voiced regret that Court of Appeal judges like Harminder Singh Dhaliwal, Mary Lim and Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera had been overlooked.

“The criteria for appointment to the apex court should be scholarship, not fellowship,” he said.

He said that the burden in the Federal Court would now fall on writers such as Tengku Maimun, Rohana, Azahar Mohamed, David Wong Dak Wah, Nalini Pathmanathan, Idrus Harun, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Abdul Rahman Sebli.

As for the Court of Appeal, he said, it was a pity that High Court judges like Wong Kien Keong, Darryl Goon and Mohd Firuz Jaffril had been omitted.