PUTRAJAYA: The judiciary has proposed that provisions in the Federal Constitution be amended to remove executive involvement in the appointment of judges.
This was revealed by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who said the suggestion was given by the judiciary to the task force probing former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’ book, “My Story: Justice In The Wilderness”.
One of the suggestions was that improvements should be made to the process of appointing judges.
“We suggested that there should be an amendment to the constitution to give effect to our proposal,” she told reporters after officiating a ceremony to open the legal year.
Tengku Maimun said the judiciary was collectively supportive of the task force’s proposal to the government.
“That is our general stand to improve the judiciary or the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC). However, there must be meaningful engagement with all stakeholders to move forward,” she said.
Article 122B (1) states that judges and all administrative position holders shall be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the prime minister, after consultation with the Conference of Rulers.
However, Section 27 of the Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2009 states that the prime minister may request for two additional names for consideration with respect to any vacancy to the offices of the Chief Justice, Court of Appeal President, Chief Judges of Malaya, and Sabah and Sarawak, and on the panels of the Federal Court and the Court of Appeal.
Tengku Maimun said any amendment to the 2009 Act would likely first require the Federal Constitution itself to be amended.
“We will not reach the objective of appointing judges without executive involvement, if the current provision (which requires executive consultation) remains,” she added.
She said the prevailing public perception of executive involvement in the appointment of judges must also be removed.
Tengku Maimun said she had also called for the new government to set up an independent judicial academy to cater to the training needs of superior court judges.
Last year the top judge announced that the government approved 25 acres of land in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, alongside an existing magistrates’ court for the academy.
“In principle, the previous government had approved (the proposal), but when the final decision was communicated to us, they said judges should go to the judicial and legal service officers’ training institute due to a costing issue.
“As a matter of principle, judges should not be going there. Judges are not government officers,” Tengku Maimun said.
She said judges in the past never attended any course at the institute located in Bandar Baru Bangi.
“The person who issued the statement lacked understanding of the law and procedure,” she added.
Meanwhile, sharing a personal experience in her role as Chief Justice, Tengku Maimun said she had been on the receiving end of death threats when presiding over cases involving certain personalities.
“In cases involving certain personalities, the support or criticism is extreme. People generally know that I myself have received death threats before.
“Whether those were serious threats or not is another question, but it has reached that level,” she said, according to Bernama.
When it comes to high-profile individuals, she said the comments directed at the judiciary were not constructive but excessive, one-sided and politically-motivated.
“I hope the people out there understand the structure of the country’s legal process before issuing any statements which show their lack of understanding.”
In August last year, the media quoted police as saying they had received reports of threats made against Tengku Maimun on social media and would be taking action against anyone found abusing such platforms to undermine security.