Reforms committee to look into ‘top heavy’ commission that selects judges

Institutional Reforms Committee member Datuk KC Vohrah attends a press conference at Menara Ilham in Kuala Lumpur May 16, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Institutional Reforms Committee member Datuk KC Vohrah attends a press conference at Menara Ilham in Kuala Lumpur May 16, 2018. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — The Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) plans to recommend changes to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) as it finds the commission’s current format to be too “top heavy”.

The committee’s chair, retired Court of Appeals judge Datuk KC Vohrah, said the commission, which decides a judge’s appointment or promotion, consists of too many senior judges.

“The last thing you want for a judge’s appointment or promotion is political or executive interference. Right now, it’s a very top-heavy group of people making decisions. Right now, eight judges and one academic are sitting on the board of the commission.

“Don’t you think there will be deference based on this format?” questioned Vohrah, referring to actions by junior judges towards senior judges on the commission.

He then explained that the English legal system does not have a lawyer or a legal expert chairing the commission, allowing for a more balanced system.

He also said that by submitting the name of judges to be promoted to the prime minister, it grants the executive the power to reject or approve the appointment.

“If you submit the names [of judges] to the prime minister, the prime minister has the right to request more names. In a way, he is rejecting those names and by doing this, good judges won’t be promoted.

“In England, if a judge is rejected, the person rejecting must give a reason why,” said Vohrah.

He also said that the president of the Bar Council should also be on the commission’s board.