CJ wants Malaysian Bar, AGC to cooperate to strengthen judicial independence

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PUTRAJAYA (Jan 10): Chief Justice of Malaya Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat wants the judiciary, the Malaysian Bar and the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) to work together to strengthen judicial independence.

Justice Tengku Maimun said while she would work to ensure the independence of the judiciary by keeping corruption among judicial officers in check, in the event that spurrious allegations are made against the institution, judges are unable to respond to such claims due to the very nature of their office.

“The irony is that the judiciary, the very institution tasked with the insurmountable obligation to defend the liberty of the people, is itself quite defenceless. It is incumbent on all the stakeholders in the justice system to support and defend the system when the institution is undermined.

“It, therefore, falls on the Attorney General and the Bar to come to its defence. It is only when we understand our respective roles and the inherent obligations that come with such roles, that we may work together to strengthen judicial independence,” she said at the launch of Legal Year 2020 today here.

Alluding to allegations about judicial interference and the Bar's repeated calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set-up in respect of the judiciary, Justice Tengku Maimun said the allegations made, are still under investigation.

“Until the authorities decide whether these allegations warrant further action, they remain what they are — unproven accusations.

“However, the president of the Bar’s statement has further ramifications. It creates the perception that as these allegations have been made, that in itself, shows that the judiciary lacks independence. It further suggests that without an RCI, the confidence of the public in the judiciary stands eroded.

“This, with respect, is wholly unwarranted because what are in effect unproven allegations are not, and cannot be reflective of the independence of the entire judiciary. Ironically, it has the unfortunate effect of eroding public confidence in the institution as it now stands,” she added.

The CJ was referring to the RCI that has been called for to look into the revelations by senior Court of Appeal judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, about senior judges trying to influence the judiciary in the sedition case of the late Karpal Singh at the appellate court, and how Hamid himself had been reprimanded for writing a dissenting judgment in the M Indira Gandhi conversion case.

Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor was present at the event today, which also saw the attendance of Parliament speaker Tan Sri Mohammad Ariff Md Yusof, Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusof, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah, Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Deputy de-facto Law Minister Mohd Hanipa Maidin, and Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador.

At a press conference later, Justice Tengku Maimum was asked about the status of investigation into the allegations raised, to which she said she would write to Abdul Hamid to update him once the probe had concluded, as well as its outcome.

It was previously reported that Tengku Maimun's predecessor, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, had lodged a police report on the issues exposed by Hamid in an affidavit the latter affirmed to support a legal suit initiated by Karpal's daughter, Sangeet Kaur Deo, against the CJ's office, for failure to defend and preserve the integrity of the judiciary in both her father and Indira M Ghani's cases.

Last week, Tengku Maimun told the media that the judicial had to suspend its own probe into the matter, as police was investigating it.

She also said she was conflicted about heading the probe, as she had dissented in Karpal's case, as she wanted the late veteran lawyer acquitted of the sedition charge. She also said her then No 2, Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, was also in conflict as he had sat in a panel that ordered the former DAP chairman to enter his defence.

Sangeet, in response, urged the judiciary to have Justice Rohana head the probe, since she is not conflicted.

Read also:
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Judiciary bids to reform people's access to justice — CJ
Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat's full speech at opening of the legal year 2020