Lawyers not happy with move to hear leave applications without their presence

Lawyers say litigants have the right to know who and how many judges sat to hear leave applications.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has said that all leave to appeal applications scheduled to be heard from April 15 to 30 will be decided based only on written submissions.

Apex court deputy registrar Jumirah Marjuki in a letter sighted by FMT said lawyers need not be present.

It also said that since the movement control order (MCO) to contain the Covid-19 pandemic was now extended, all hearings for such applications from April 1 to 14 would be postponed.

Leave, based on legal and constitutional questions framed by aggrieved parties, is a requirement before the bench decides whether the appeal could be heard.

The Malaysian Bar in a circular yesterday said it had obtained confirmation that lawyers need only provide written submission unless directed otherwise.

But lawyer A Srimurugan said the directive went against Section 75 of the Courts of Judicature Act, which states that the court must sit on such dates and such place as the chief justice decided.

“A panel cannot assemble and decide without the physical presence of lawyers for disputing parties,” he told FMT.

Srimurugan said Rule 98 of the Federal Court Rules 1995 also emphasised that all applications should be before the open court.

He suggested all leave applications be postponed until the order was lifted.

Lawyer T Gunaseelan said litigants had the right to know who and how many judges sat to hear the leave applications.

“This directive will set a bad precedent to all other lower courts,” he said, adding lawyers could only display their advocacy skills during oral submissions.

Gunaseelan said, based on his experience, judges had changed their views after hearing oral submissions of a party.