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Stakeholders must play role in enhancing public perception of judiciary

A royal commission of inquiry into the judiciary is needed

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The Malaysian Bar views with deep concern the grave allegations made by Chief Justice Richard Malanjum [since retired] of professional misconduct by lawyers.

News reports stated that on 22 March 2019 the chief justice alleged the existence of the “unhealthy practise [sic] among lawyers of dropping the names of prominent judges, prosecutors, policemen and investigating officers to impress prospective clients”, and of lawyers who ask clients for money to “share [the money] with the magistrate, judge, prosecuting officer and policemen”.

The Malaysian Bar abhors and condemns any form of corrupt practice or unethical conduct of lawyers. Any inference of such misconduct is highly damaging to the credibility and reputation of the legal profession and must not be taken as fact until and unless proven to be true.

The Malaysian Bar urges the chief justice — as well as any person or entity who has cogent evidence of professional misconduct in this matter — to lodge an official complaint with the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board (ASDB), which is statutorily tasked to investigate any alleged professional misconduct of advocates and solicitors.

We stand ready to render assistance to the chief justice and any would-be complainant in having his or her complaint properly directed to the ASDB. In addition, the chief justice and any would-be complainant are also at liberty to lodge police reports.

As an equal and committed partner in the administration of justice in the country, the Malaysian Bar has in the past sought – and will continue to seek – the judiciary’s views on how the bench and bar may work together to ensure the efficient and effective administration of justice, in fulfilment of the roles and responsibilities of each institution.

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It is in this vein that the Malaysian Bar expresses concern over what has been perceived, by both lawyers and litigants, as an over-emphasis on the speed of disposal of cases – which could be at the expense of fairness and the overall quality of justice.

This has led to an unfavourable public perception of the judiciary, in that there is an over-reliance on the use of key performance indicators (KPI) as the predominant criterion in the disposal of cases.

An excellent justice system requires a combination of a fair conduct of cases, their speedy disposal and well-reasoned decisions so as to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in all cases.

In the administration of justice, the emphasis must be on quality and integrity over quantity – and to ensure that justice is in no instance sacrificed for speed or expediency.

The Malaysian Bar will do our utmost to protect the interests of the public and the members of the Bar at all times, in matters relating to the administration of justice.

Towards that end, the Bar will continue to advocate and support the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary, which is at the core of enhancing public confidence in the judiciary.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar.

This piece, written on 26 March 2019, is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only. 

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