APRIL 23 — Order 53 rule 3(2) Rules of Court 2012 states that an application for leave for judicial review must be made ex parte to a judge in chambers.

Chambers mean the room in which judges sit to hear interlocutory matters which need not be heard in court. Proceedings in chambers are not open to the public. Generally, only the parties and solicitors are allowed in chambers.

More than a century ago, Lord Justice Brett in the English case of Harmont v Foster [1881] explained as follows:

“A judge sitting in chambers does not mean that he is sitting in any particular room, but that he is not sitting in open Court.”

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In Setali Development Sdn Bhd v Lim You Keng [1984], Federal Court Judge Hashim Yeop A Sani (as he then was) explained the term further as follows:

”The term ‘chambers’ is used in contrast to the term ‘court’. In fact, applications in chambers are merely conducted before a court sitting in private and only the parties and their representatives will be allowed to be present.”

The distinction is, therefore, this: the Court sitting in Chambers is the Court sitting in private and the Court sitting in open Court is the Court sitting in public. In the latter case, the court may in a proper case exclude the public so as to sit in camera.

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Former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrived for the 1MDB trial case in Kuala Lumpur Court April 22,2024. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak arrived for the 1MDB trial case in Kuala Lumpur Court April 22,2024. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Generally, all proceedings in the High Court and all businesses arising therefrom must be heard and disposed of in open court. Where any statute — eg Order 53 rule 3(2)) Rules of Court 2012 — or practice of court provides otherwise, the proceedings will then be dealt with in chambers.

A judge in chambers may, however, direct any matters in chambers to be heard in open court or to be adjourned into open court to be so heard if he considers that by reason of its importance or for any other reason it should be so heard — Order 32 rule 11(1). Conversely, any matter heard in open court by virtue of a direction of a judge may be adjourned back into chambers — Order 32 rule 11(2).

So, it is not a misplaced call for electoral watchdog Bersih and the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) to urge all court proceedings involving former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s bid to be held under house arrest to be made public rather than in the chambers.

Najib’s bid to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest is a matter of public interest, and that the basic tenets of democracy require the judicial process to be transparent, not shrouded in a cloud of secrecy.

The public, it is said, has the right to information in an open, transparent, timely and meaningful manner, and the right must be protected.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.