KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Members of the Malaysian Bar today agreed to legally challenge the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President’s extended tenures and to refrain from inviting both to social events and dinners.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese confirmed that the majority of the 993 lawyers who attended the Bar’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) today voted in favour of the resolutions, and fewer than 10 people abstained or voted against the motion.
George, who proposed the motion that was voted in today, confirmed the lawsuit will be filed.
“Yes, one of the decisions today is to institute legal proceedings against these appointments which the Bar Council will do shortly,” he told reporters immediately after the closed-door EGM.
He confirmed that the lawsuit would include an application for both the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President to not exercise their roles and duties if they do not turn down the extension of their tenure, noting that this is also one of the agreed resolutions today.
“What will happen is if they continue to preside over cases or even sit in panels deciding cases, if their appointment is subsequently declared as unconstitutional, null and void; then the net effect of that will be the validity of those decisions comes into question, it can be subsequently challenged,” he added.
One of the eight resolutions agreed upon was for the Malaysian Bar to resolve to not invite Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin for any of its social functions as long as they remain in their current positions beyond their constitutional retirement age of 66 years and six months, and to encourage all lawyers to refrain from inviting the two officials to their social events or accepting their invitations.
“It’s a form of protest and to show our discontent in respect of these unconstitutional appointments and there’s nothing personal against the persons itself,” George said.
“Basically it’s just like what happened in the judicial crisis in 1988, there too the Bar then resolved that as a sign of protest that we will decline social invitations from the judiciary and similarly we will not extend invitations.
“But this, let me make it very clear, does not mean that we do not engage with the judiciary. We will still continue to engage with the judiciary in all official matters,” he added.
George, who is also Bar Council chairman, said the Malaysian Bar will likely continue attending the annual Opening of the Legal Year ceremony with judges as it is an official event in the legal calendar.
On whether lawyers would join in the Bench and Bar Games with judges, George said the Bar Council will have to consider whether to continue the tradition.
The other resolutions include calling on Md Raus and Zulkefli to turn down the allegedly unconstitutional extensions of their term, and to resolve that the Malaysian Bar will no longer have confidence in the duo if they continue in these positions beyond the constitutional age limit and do not retire today and on September 27 respectively.
The second motion that was similarly worded and due to be debated today at the Bar EGM was withdrawn as its proposer wanted the Malaysian Bar to “speak in one voice”, George said.
The Prime Minister’s Office’s July 7 announcement on the duo’s appointment as additional judges, which would effectively extend their terms as two of the country’s most powerful judges, was met with protests from the legal community.
In the July 7 statement, 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 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 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.