PETALING JAYA: Writing quality judgments and providing them at a reasonable pace is a hallmark of a competent judge, two retired judges said.
They said written grounds must also be made available to appellants to ensure the wheels of justice are not slowed down.
Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said a judge should take at least two weeks and a maximum three months to provide written grounds once an appeal was filed.
“It is wise to deliver judgments when the facts are still fresh in the mind of the judge,” he said, adding that it is the duty of the trial judge to get the facts right as the law will fall into place.
Sri Ram, a lawyer before his elevation to the bench in 1994, said judgments need not be lengthy containing many quotations from decided cases.
Last week, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat reminded judges to prepare their grounds so that appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court could be speeded up. She said the reasons for a decision were more important than the ruling.
Sri Ram, who is back in practice, said there is a trend of incoherent judgments being dished out, in which conclusions were reached without proper reasoning.
He said it was vital for trial judges to provide their grounds expeditiously in capital punishment cases when appellants are still on death row.
“There will be miscariage of justice as appeals cannot be heard without knowing on what grounds they were convicted,” he said, adding that a fair trial includes providing prompt judgments.
Retired Court of Appeal judge Mah Weng Kwai said appellants in criminal and civil cases have two rounds of appeals and the wheels of justice could come to a standstill if written judgments are not made available.
“In civil cases, appellate judges could rely on notes of proceedings, only without the grounds of judgment when considering whether to allow or dismiss appeals,” he said, adding that such practice is an exception.
Mah, a former member of the Judicial Appointments Commission that considers judges for promotion, said making available the written speaking grounds is important as parties would like to know why they lost or won their cases.
He said a speaking judgment is an important appeal record as lawyers will attempt to look for errors for appeal purposes.
Mah, a former Malaysian Bar president, said that quality judgments are necessary in the development of the law when such judgment are considered by the appellate courts.