‘Unethical’ to criticise superior court rulings, Chief Justice tells judges

Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Arifin Zakaria cautioned that judges are only allowed to disagree or to distinguish verdicts, but not to criticise the findings of superior courts. — Picture by Siow Saw Feng
Chief Justice of Malaysia Tun Arifin Zakaria cautioned that judges are only allowed to disagree or to distinguish verdicts, but not to criticise the findings of superior courts. — Picture by Siow Saw Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria reminded judges today that they are bound by the rulings of superior courts and that any criticism of such judgments is unethical.

Appearing displeased, the Federal Court judge said he was informed that several judges from the lower courts had criticised decisions passed in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, cautioning that judges are only allowed to disagree or to distinguish verdicts, but not to criticise the findings of superior courts.

“I have heard complaints from judges who are not pleased with higher courts’ rulings and passed remarks. You might disagree with the Federal Court or the Court of Appeal but you are bound by it.

“So please don’t pass any uncalled for remarks as it does not reflect well on the judiciary, it’s unethical…’stare decisis’ dictates that the lower courts are bound by the higher courts and this is to provide certainty to the law,” he said in his speech at the start of the 50th National Judges’ Conference here, using the Latin term that means the legal principle of following precedent.

Arifin also advised judges to improve their written judgements, adding that a good command of the language is an integral part of their job scope.

“Writing is an essential step in continuing the challenge as we seek to improve the judiciary in line with this year’s motto striving towards judicial excellence,” he said, adding that there has been many adverse comments on the quality of judgments.

“The best guide is to read the judgments of earlier judges...for those who can’t write English properly, you can write in Malay, but please write in proper Malay.

“In Indonesia, judgments are written in Malay...you can read some of the Indonesian judgements,” he added.

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