PUTRAJAYA, July 17 — Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim was sworn in today as the Chief Judge of Malaya, becoming only the second woman to reach the post since it was created about 24 years ago in 1994.
Zaharah, a Federal Court judge for the past three years, assumed the third highest-ranking position in the judiciary today.
“I am honoured to have been appointed,” she told reporters when met today after her oath-taking ceremony.
The last time a woman held this position was slightly over 11 years ago.
Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob, who was the first and only woman to be a Federal Court judge back in January 2001, was the first female Chief Judge of Malaya from February 8, 2005 to January 5, 2007.
Zaharah takes over from predecessor Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, who was promoted as President of the Court of Appeal on July 12.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong consented to Zaharah’s appointment — following the advice of the prime minister and upon consultation with the Conference of Rulers — with effect from July 11.
Zaharah took her oath of office today before senior High Court judge Datuk Su Geok Yiam.
Those who attended the swearing-in ceremony this afternoon at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya included Attorney General Tommy Thomas and the Malaysian Bar president's representative Roger Chan.
Those from the judiciary who attended included Ahmad, new Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk David Wong Dak Wah, and Federal Court Chief Registrar Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar.
Former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria was also present.
Hailing from Johor Baru, Zaharah will turn 66 this November 17, which means she is being promoted four months shy of her constitutional retirement age.
However, the Universiti Malaya law graduate is eligible to serve for an additional six months from November if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong approves of such an extension.
Zaharah will bring 41 years of experience in the legal field and judiciary to her current position, having started her career in 1977 with various posts including as a magistrate in Melaka.
Zaharah also was the Selangor state legal adviser for about two years from April 1, 1994 to May 1996.
Aside from a brief five-month stint as the director of intellectual property under the then Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in 1992, Zaharah spent about half of her career working in the Attorney General's Chambers' division that drafts laws to be passed in Parliament.
She was the Deputy Parliamentary Draftsman II — the third highest position in the division — from July 16, 1992 to March 31, 1994.
After serving as Selangor state legal adviser, Zaharah was appointed on May 16, 1996 as Deputy Parliamentary Draftsman I ― the second highest position in the AGC's drafting division.
She was promoted months later on August 1 to be the Parliamentary Draftsman or head of the AGC's drafting division, holding that post for eight years until her appointment as a judicial commissioner in 2004.
Zaharah was confirmed as a High Court judge on July 28, 2006, and became a Court of Appeal judge almost four years later on April 14, 2010.
She was elevated to be a Federal Court judge on February 16, 2015.
In her new position, she will continue to preside over cases in the Federal Court as well as overseeing the judges in the High Court in peninsular Malaysia, which can have up to 60 judges at any one time, based on the Federal Constitution.
According to the Judicial Appointments Commission's statistics as of July 11, 50 out of the 60 openings for judges in the High Court in Malaya have been filled, and there are currently 28 judicial commissioners in the High Court in Malaya.