KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 —The Bar Council will ask the Chief Judge of Malaya to appoint a special panel of former judges to hear its planned lawsuit to challenge the tenure extensions of Malaysia’s two most senior judges.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the planned lawsuit to challenge the appointment of the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal is “unprecedented”, adding that it was necessary to get a completely new panel of judges to avoid “conflict of interest”.
“Surely they will be in a position of conflict of interest if either of them were to preside over the bench which decides in respect of the legal challenge.
“In fact, we hold the view that all members of the current Federal Court will also be equally conflicted in presiding or deciding over such a challenge. Hence why we are urging the Chief Judge of Malaya to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint additional judges specifically to hear this court matter,” he told reporters.
George said “additional judges” who may be appointed under Article 122 (1A) of the Federal Constitution are those who previously held high judicial office, adding that the Chief Judge of Malaya should assume the Chief Justice’s powers and duties to recommend retired judges — who last served in the Federal Court or Court of Appeal — for this special panel.
While saying the number of additional judges for this special panel would be up to the Chief Judge of Malaya, George added that it would be “preferable” to have a larger panel given the importance of the planned lawsuit.
“Usually we have a panel of five sitting in the Federal Court, but this may be an instance where perhaps you should have a panel of seven or even nine judges to determine this issue which is very important,” said George, who is also Bar Council chairman.
Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin are currently the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal, with the two other most high-ranking judges in Malaysia being Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
The Malaysian Bar’s members today agreed to file a lawsuit to challenge the extension of the Chief Justice and President of Court of Appeal’s terms, and to also snub both top judges for social functions and dinners.
All these are part of eight resolutions voted in by a majority of 993 lawyers who attended the Malaysian Bar’s extraordinary general meeting today.
The other resolutions agreed upon today include the Malaysian Bar resolving that it would be unconstitutional and invalid for Md Raus and Zulkefli to continue in their current positions beyond the constitutional age limit of 66 years and six months, and to call on the duo to decline the appointments and retire today and on this September 27 respectively.
In the Prime Minister’s Office’s July 7 statement that has been fiercely objected to by lawyers, Md Raus is to continue serving as an additional judge in the Federal Court and as Chief Justice of the Federal Court for another three years from this August 4, while Zulkefli is to continue serving as an additional judge in the same court and as President of the Court of Appeal for another two years from this September 28.
They have held these posts since April 1.
Both previously had their services as judges extended for another six months after hitting the age of 66, with Raus’s term extended from February 4 to August 3, while Zulkefli’s term was extended from March 28 until September 27.