G25: Judicial, legal services should be entirely distinct

Last month, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria proposed that the Chief Registrar head the judicial and legal services commission, saying it was ‘unwise’ for the AG to be in charge of both. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Last month, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria proposed that the Chief Registrar head the judicial and legal services commission, saying it was ‘unwise’ for the AG to be in charge of both. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — Judicial and legal services should be supervised by separate commissions in order to enhance their independence, said a pro-moderation group today.

Agreeing with Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria’s proposal to remove the Attorney-General as the head of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, the G25 said it was untenable for the same person to be in charge of both prosecutors and judges in the subordinate courts.

“However, in order to further enhance the independence of judicial officers, we also propose that the judicial service be separated from the legal service, so that there will now be two separate services, namely, the ‘Judicial Service’ and the ‘Legal Service’,” it said in a statement.

It said appointments and promotions in both services must be done with transparency and in a professional manner in order to engender confidence in the country’s legal system.

The group also proposed that Malaysia abandon the practice of employing the Attorney-General as both the head of prosecutorial services and legal advisor to the government, and instead follow other Commonwealth nations that have created a separate position of Director for Public Prosecution.

Although acknowledging that the proposal would require a constitutional amendment, the group said it would help prevent suspicions of political interference in the latter function.

Both positions should also come with secure tenures similar to that enjoyed by Federal Court judges, which it said would provide the office holders the confidence to execute their duties faithfully.

Last month, Arifin proposed that the Chief Registrar head the judicial services portion of the commission, saying it was “unwise” for the AG to be in charge of both.

He said the Chief Registrar has drafted a paper for the proposed change that he said should be finalised by year end.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said described the proposal as “interesting”, but stressed that it required further evaluation.

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