PETALING JAYA: Any move to empower Parliament to appoint the Chief Justice of Malaysia, or place the position under the legislature, is unsafe as it will undermine the separation of powers doctrine, a retired judge said.
Gopal Sri Ram said the chief justice, and by extension the superior court judges (High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court), were guardians of the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
He said the superior court judges acted as a check and balance on the legislature and the executive arm of the government.
Noting that the chief justice was the head of the judiciary, he said any move to let Parliament appoint the chief justice or place that position under Parliament would go against the separation of powers doctrine.
Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, said this in response to the unveiling of Gerakan Tanah Air’s (GTA) general election manifesto which included a promise to place nine key top government officers under Parliament’s purview if it wins at the polls.
The nine key officers are the attorney-general, inspector-general of police, chief justice, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner, armed forces chief, chief secretary to the government, Treasury secretary-general, auditor-general, and Bank Negara Malaysia governor.
GTA chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this was necessary to free the country from corruption, money politics and abuse of power.
Meanwhile, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar said the present system of appointing and promoting judges could remain with some modifications.
“An additional safeguard is to incorporate the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) into the constitution and to remove the right of the prime minister to call for additional names.”
He said the candidates nominated for appointment by the JAC should be final and only subject to confirmation by the Conference of Rulers.
Syed Iskandar said judicial appointments should be independent of any interference and that an amendment to the constitution was needed to make the JAC a constitutional body.
Currently, the nine-member JAC is seen as a body that recommends candidates for appointment and elevation, with the prime minister empowered to make the final decision.
This is because Article 122 of the Federal Constitution states that the appointment of judges and administrative position holders is by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong acting on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers.