PETALING JAYA: Judges are not above the law and are not excluded from the same criminal investigation procedures imposed on other people, Umno information chief Isham Jalil said today in a response to the Chief Justice.
He said the authorities should not be forced to consult the Chief Justice first, or obtain her permission before acting against any judge who is suspected of committing a criminal offence.
He said judges have no immunity (from criminal prosecution) “and are not accorded any special treatment when it comes to crime. No one is above the law, including judges,” he said in an online posting today.
His statement was a response to remarks by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat on Friday that investigating authorities should consult her first before initiating any action against judges.
Isham said: “If the authorities need to get permission or negotiate with the chief judge to investigate and charge a judge suspected of having committed a crime, it won’t sit well with the principles of separation of powers,” he said.
Isham said judges in countries such as Britain and the United States can be arrested, investigated and charged if they are suspected of committing any criminal act, without the need to get permission from the chief judge first.
Isham added that upholding this aspect of the law is important to ensure that the separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and Parliament are maintained.
Isham also said Tengku Maimun should not pass judgements that may appear to be biased, as the people are watching and it will affect their trust towards the nation’s legal system.
“It will be difficult to uphold the law if the people lose trust towards the judiciary,” he said.
Tengku Maimun’s remarks were made in a Federal Court judgement on Friday in a suit over an investigation into Justice Nazlan Ghazali by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The seven-member bench held that judges are not immune from criminal investigation or prosecution but the MACC probe had been carried out without following protocol.
She said investigative bodies like MACC must consult the chief justice before initiating an investigation, adding that their failure to do so showed that there was “a lack of bona fide on their part.”
The Federal Court judgement was on a suit brought by three lawyers to challenge the MACC’s investigation into claims of an unexplained sum of more than RM1 million in Nazlan’s bank account.
They sought a declaration that the investigation was unconstitutional, and that the Public Prosecutor was not empowered to institute or conduct any proceedings for an offence against serving judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court.
Justice Nazlan came to prominence when he heard the case against Najib Razak in the High Court on charges of misappropriating RM42 million from SRC International, then owned by 1Malaysia Development Berhad. He found Najib guilty and sentenced the former prime minister to 12 years’ jail.