PUTRAJAYA: Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who clocks out for the last time after serving the judiciary for 14 years today, says he has lived by his oath of office to defend the Federal Constitution.
“I stood up to my oath of office, notwithstanding many challenges I had to endure,” Hamid, who will turn 66 tomorrow, said in a brief statement.
He said it has been his good fortune that his journey as a judge has been a productive one as he had also discharged his duties and obligations in accordance with the rule of law and the Rukun Negara.
Hamid had been left idle since Feb 4 after the Judges’ Ethics Committee (JEC) suspended him for six months, earning him the notoriety of being the first judge to be punished since the Judges’ Ethics Committee Act 2010 came into effect.
Hamid, who had alleged judicial interference in several high-profile cases three years ago, was asked to appear before the JEC but he refused as he wanted to challenge the composition and constitutionality of the committee.
On his post-retirement plans, Hamid said he would “facilitate affordable arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution”.
Hamid has authored three books, including one on the constitution launched yesterday which, he said, would serve as a guide to all stakeholders of administration of justice and the public.
The road to his suspension began in August 2018, when Hamid spoke at an international law conference in Kuala Lumpur and shocked the nation by revealing that he had been reprimanded by a top judge for delivering a dissenting judgment in a widely followed case of unilateral conversion.
He said the judge, whose identity he did not reveal, severely reprimanded him, and did so in a manner unbecoming of someone holding a top post.
Hamid’s dissenting judgment was subsequently unanimously upheld by a five-member Federal Court bench in early 2018, that ruled that the consent of both spouses was required to convert a minor to Islam.
His revelation of the reprimand led to the Malaysian Bar president then, George Varughese, urging the new Pakatan Harapan government to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into the matter.
In February 2019, Hamid affirmed an explosive 65-page affidavit in support of a suit filed by lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo against then chief justice Richard Malanjum.
The affidavit, which was widely circulated, stated that Malanjum had failed in his duty to preserve and protect the integrity of the judiciary.
Hamid also alleged that there had been interference in the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy case and a sedition appeal by the late Karpal Singh.
Following his allegation, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission attempted to record statements from Hamid, a practising lawyer before his elevation to the bench in 2007. He said he was prepared to tell all at the proposed RCI, which the government had initially agreed to form.
In late 2019, the suit filed by Sangeet, who is Karpal’s daughter, was dismissed and almost all the contents of Hamid’s affidavit in support of her action were expunged as they were ruled to be scandalous, vexatious and frivolous.
Some time in June last year, Hamid also delivered a controversial judgment in a criminal drug appeal, and remarked that judges must be mindful of their judicial oath to preserve, defend and protect the Federal Constitution.
Following complaints by two judges to Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who is the JEC chairman, a show cause notice was issued to Hamid in August last year by Tengku Maimun.
Hamid was then asked to appear before the committee but he filed two actions in the High Court to stall the proceedings pending a judicial review.
He sought a declaration that the JEC’s proceedings, held in camera, were irrational and against the rules of natural justice and unconstitutional. He also challenged the composition of the JEC.
Hamid also sought a direction in relation to the affidavit and judgment he delivered in the criminal case.
In January, the High Court dismissed Hamid’s application for leave to file for a judicial review of the affidavit and the judgment.
The court also allowed the committee’s application to strike out Hamid’s originating summons, which was closely tied to the remedy sought in the judicial review application.