Is the prime minister playing it safe by having people on the bench who can be dependable, especially with a general election approaching, wonders P Ramakrishnan.
Former judges, Bar Council presidents and eminent and prominent legal brainsin the country all unanimously oppose the appointment of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges in order to extend their tenures after their compulsory retirement.
Their stand is derived from the legal perspective and the provisions of the Federal Constitution. Their arguments are persuasive from the legal point of view, deserving serious attention in order to avoid making a mockery of the rule of law.
But what does the lay person think? How does he view these appointments as announced by the Prime Minister’s Office – ignoring sound arguments and the need to preserve the integrity of the judiciary?
The lay person is disturbed and troubled by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s indifference to these legal views. Why is he so stubborn in retaining the services of these two judges after they have served the maximum period of tenure?
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The lay person is wondering whether the judiciary is really so bankrupt that there are no qualified judges to succeed these retiring judges. Does it also indicate that the appointment of judges did not take into account meritocracy that we have arrived at this situation where no suitable judges could be found to take over from retiring judges?
If this is the s ituation, then we realise with horror how some of the court judgments have defied logic and commonsense in delivering verdicts that were flabbergasting. The erosion of confidence in our judiciary has besmirched the integrity and image of our judicial system.
In the face of this alarming situation, the layperson is pondering whether the re-appointment of these judges is a shameless attempt to appoint judges who may be expected to rule in favour of the government. Otherwise, how do you explain this?
The layperson is aware court cases involving the government and politicians are pending and, after the conclusion of the coming general election, there are bound to be more court cases challenging certain results. Is the prime minister playing it safe by having people on the bench who can be dependable?
What is being done is bad for the reputation of the government; it is bad for the image of the judiciary; it is bad for the rule of law; and it is bad for the basic principle of judicial independence!
The former Chief Justice, Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, has suggested a way out. The lay person supports this as a sensible solution to this judicial crisis. The re-appointed judges should decline their appointments and safeguard their reputation and preserve the integrity of the judiciary.
Indeed, they should honour the very oath they took as judges to uphold the Federal Constitution. Will they act in the broad interest of the nation or in their narrow personal interest?
The lay person waits with bated breath for this action that will hail them as people who care for the nation!