Chief Justice’s Office: Probe into judicial meddling claim on hold

The Office of the Chief Justice today announced the suspension of an internal investigation into the alleged interference over a 2016 appeal against former MP Karpal Singh’s sedition conviction. — Reuters pic
The Office of the Chief Justice today announced the suspension of an internal investigation into the alleged interference over a 2016 appeal against former MP Karpal Singh’s sedition conviction. — Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, Nov 26 — The Office of the Chief Justice today announced the suspension of an internal investigation into the alleged interference over a 2016 appeal against former MP Karpal Singh’s sedition conviction.

In a statement, the office of the country’s highest judge said it halted its own inquiry to avoid prejudice in ongoing police investigation, adding that the appeal is also pending at the Federal Court.

“In view of the serious allegation made, the Malaysian Judiciary conducted an internal investigation, which has since been suspended due to police investigations into the case as well as the pending appeal to the Federal Court,” it said.

It explained that the police investigation followed a complaint filed by a member of the Malaysian Bar who claimed judicial interference by a top judge in Karpal’s sedition case.

It is believed the said police report was filed in August 23 by Sangeet Kaur Deo, based on news reports citing another lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, that a senior judge had meddled in the decision of a sedition appeal case involving her late father Karpal.

Karpal, a former lawyer and legislator, was found guilty of sedition in February 2014 for questioning the power of then Perak Ruler Sultan Azlan Shah’s removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the mentri besar.

The incident came to be known as the Perak constitutional crisis of 2009.

Karpal was sentenced to a RM4,000 fine, which would have automatically disqualified him as an MP, but he died in a car crash on April 17, 2014.

However, an appeal against his conviction continued to move through the courts. On May 30, 2016, Karpal’s conviction was upheld by a three-judge panel in the Court of Appeal; Datuk Wira Mohtaruddin Baki and Kamardin Hashim upheld the conviction while Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat held a dissenting view.

The CJ’s Office also said it cannot comment on a separate interference allegation made by another former judge into the case of Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi.

In the same statement, the CJ’s Office said its hands are tied, adding that that under the Judges’ Ethics Committee Act 2010 and the Judges’ Code of Ethics 2009, it cannot actually probe allegations concerned a retired judge.

“An internal investigation into the allegations was carried out and all relevant parties were requested to give their views on the alleged incident.

“After due consideration, it was found that there were varying accounts given,” the office said.

Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer who had retired as Court of Appeals judge had alleged that he was once rebuked by a top judge after his dissenting judgment in Indira Gandhi unilateral child conversion case two years ago.

Hamid claimed he was later not assigned to hear any cases related to the Federal Constitution and those of public interest after that.

The CJ’s Office said it viewed these allegations of judicial interference as serious transgressions of the law and ethics.

It reiterated that it was unacceptable for any judge to be subjected to any reprimand by any of their “seniors” for the views expressed in any decision.

“The decision-making process of any judge is left entirely within his or her domain and cannot be subject to any influence by anyone within or outside the Judiciary.

“Any such reprimand runs contrary to the notion of independence enjoyed by every judge and the Malaysian Judiciary will not countenance any judicial interference of whatsoever nature by anyone especially by judges in the disposal of cases before the court,” it said.