PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Bar has congratulated the bench for delivering groundbreaking judgments last year that reflect on the judiciary’s role in a democratic society.
Its president, Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, said a recent decision of the Federal Court in the case of Tony Pua Kiam Wee versus the government of Malaysia was highly anticipated.
The case was about whether the prime minister of Malaysia was a public officer for the purpose of establishing liability against him under common law for the tort of misfeasance in public office.
In finding that ex-prime minister Najib Razak was a public officer, the five-member Federal Court bench relied on the leading case of Three Rivers and Jones versus Swansea City Council.
“Decisions that uphold common law and in keeping with global norms truly reinforce the role of the judiciary in a society like ours,” he said in his speech at the opening of the legal year here today.
Fareed also spoke on behalf of the Sabah Law Society and the Advocates Association of Sarawak.
He said the apex court had now affirmed the application of the basic structure doctrine initiated in the 2010 case of Sivarasa Rasiah versus Badan Peguam Malaysia (Malaysian Bar), which paved the way for the watershed decision in Semenyih Jaya in 2017.
One of the components under the doctrine is the independence of the judiciary and its role to act as a check and balance on the executive and legislature.
Fareed said the consequence of the implementation of this doctrine was well received last April in the case of Alma Nudo Atenza, where a nine-member Federal Court bench struck down the double presumption provision for drug trafficking.
That decision resulted in the courts reducing the death sentence of many accused persons to jail terms.
Fareed said the Bar was also delighted by a High Cout ruling where judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazal held that Section 13 of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) was unconstitutional for removing judges’ discretion to offer bail to those charged with terrorism-related offences.
He also thanked Attorney-General Tommy Thomas for his proactive measures in sorting out the overdue National Legal Aid Foundation payments.
“Steps have been put in place and it is hoped that long-outstanding issues would be brought to nought in the coming months,” he said.
The foundation makes payment to lawyers who provide legal assistance to the poor and needy, especially in criminal cases.
Fareed also called on the media to be more responsible when publishing “newsworthy” events.
“It is unacceptable for news to be spread merely because it is sensational or will generate readership traffic,” he added.