KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 — Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat expressed today her confidence in the judiciary’s ability to adapt during the pandemic, and its preparedness to hold online hearings even as the movement control order remains in place.
The remarks followed assertions that the courts have been inactive amid the government’s move to ban all so-called non-essential services, which the CJ dismissed as inaccurate.
Under the Prevention Of Infectious Disease Act, legal proceedings are deemed to be non-essential, in contrast to other Commonwealth countries like New Zealand, which defined the judiciary as essential even as it joins half the world in enforcing a lockdown to fight Covid-19.
“As regards the use of technology for online hearing, I find it necessary to stress that the Malaysian judiciary is ready to conduct and has indeed conducted online hearing for civil cases with the consent of parties,” she said in a statement.
In the last few years, the courts have taken steps to amend the relevant laws so hearings could be conducted online, and most courts in the country are equipped with the latest internet communication technology, according to the CJ.
Tengku Maimun said pending the said amendments, a Practice Direction on the conduct of court proceedings via online hearings. The draft has since been circulated for feedback.
“The Malaysian judiciary is ready to implement the measures it proposes to ensure continuous access to justice to all Malaysians, but it cannot do so until there is adequate feedback from all relevant stakeholders,” she said.
All court matters bar few criminal proceedings have been suspended since Putrajaya enforced a partial lockdown on March 18. In the duration of the MCO, only certain criminal hearings, such as remand applications and fresh charges, have been allowed.
However, urgent civil cases continued to be held online.
Proceedings to deal with case managements, for example, have been carried out via email or through web communication tools while online filings through e-filings are taking place as usual even under the MCO.
Meanwhile, judges and judicial officers are still working albeit remotely from home. They remain contactable at all times, the CJ noted.
“To ensure that all necessary cases which require urgent attention are dealt with swiftly,” she said.