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Sanity returns to judiciary

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The recent rulings by the Federal Court, which overturned the ridiculous decisions of the High Court concerning the election petitions, hold out some hope for the judiciary, that we still have some judges who are beholden to justice and nothing else.

court sentencing

The decisions of the election courts were so blatantly unfair to the petitioners that well-meaning Malaysians were rightly appalled and frustrated at the quality of justice meted out by judges who did not strike us as being fair and just in their decisions.

Most of the petitions were dismissed solely on technical grounds without considering the merits of the case. To top it all, the petitioners were made to pay exorbitant sums to the respondents in what appeared to be punishment for challenging the election results.

It is said, “Justice is that virtue that assigns to every man his due.” But in all these cases that virtue was glaringly missing and their due was totally denied making us wonder whether some judges are capable of dispensing justice at all.

It was so obvious that the election result for Bagan Datoh was fraught with corruption and yet the High Court threw out the petition on flimsy technical grounds. The court was of the view that since the name of the petitioner’s lawyer was not stated in the document, the petition would be dismissed; the court refused to accept the filings by the law firm.

We have witnessed numerous cases where courts have allowed – and indeed ordered in certain cases – for defects in the documents to be rectified so that cases can proceed smoothly. Why this discretion was not observed (in the case of the election petition) is anyone’s guess.

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The petition had provided evidence by way of photographs depicting the winner Ahmad Zahid Hamidi distributing aid in his constituency that had exceeded the legally permitted amount for campaigning. The petition claimed that Zahid had spent up to RM2m while the limit set by the Election Commission was RM200,000 for a parliamentary seat. He was also accused of vote buying.

How could these terrible offences be overlooked in favour of a mere technicality – which resulted in the petition being dismissed? The merit of the case was more deserving of a full trial but shockingly this was not the case!

Similarly, in the case of the Tapah parliamentary constituency, the High Court also dismissed the petition on a technicality which is rather difficult to comprehend.

The High Court, in dismissing the petition, ruled that K Hariharan was not appointed as an advocate and ordered a whopping RM190,000 to be paid as costs! But Hariharan had appeared in court on behalf of the petitioner. What was the problem in accepting him as an advocate and allowing the case to go on trial?

The court even denied the petitioner, Vasantha Kumar, to argue his own case ruling that he did not have the qualification of an advocate to argue his own petition. This is baffling to say the least. A qualified advocate was denied his presence in court on technical grounds. To add insult to the injury, the petitioner was even refused his right to argue his case under the circumstances. If the petitioner is prepared to argue his case, why should he be denied that right?

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It is very encouraging that the Federal Court has ruled that the decisions of the High Court were wrong and has remitted these petitions to the Election Courts to hear the cases on their merits. We can only hope and pray that sanity will prevail and that justice will have its day in Court this time.

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive member
30 December 2013

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