KUALA LUMPUR: Judges must be courageous to maintain public confidence in the judiciary and express dissenting views where necessary, said the Sultan of Perak.
Describing the current situation in the country as “challenging”, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah said it was crucial for judges to help ensure that the public has high and clear regard for the judiciary.
“We live in challenging times, in which our institutions sometimes seem to be under threat.
“More than ever, we need courageous and fair-minded judges to instil confidence that the judicial system remains sacrosanct in guarding the rights, interests and liberty of all,” Sultan Nazrin said in his address at the launch of the book, Justice Above All: Selected judgments of Tun Arifin Zakaria with commentaries.
The book was launched in conjunction with the upcoming retirement of Arifin as Malaysia’s 13th Chief Justice.
Arifin was sworn in as Chief Justice on Sept 12, 2011, taking over the position from Tun Zaki Azmi.
Sultan Nazrin said that while there is value in unanimous opinions, it is critical that judges speak in dissent where necessary.
“Some judges may hold strong legal and moral convictions, yet fail to articulate their concerns in their judgments.
“They may remain silent out of deference to the judgments of others; out of concern that their comments may be dismissed; or out of a misplaced belief that what they might have to say is not that important.
“Sometimes, the brave dissenting voice is transformed into law.”
He said judges must be independent, impartial and have integrity.
“Judges must also strive relentlessly to dispense justice in accordance with the rule of law, which among others, provide the foundation for economic growth and progress.
“By providing fair and prompt judicial decisions on matters concerning the enforcement of commercial rights, a well-functioning judicial system helps to promote a competitive and attractive economic climate in the country.
“This in turn facilitates value-adding capital formation and investment,” he added.
Sultan Nazrin said judges should be free to express a variety of ideas and principles.
“Every judge should have the opportunity to participate fully, even while the majority decision rules the outcome.
“This judicial independence in turn helps to ensure that the rule of law is fully upheld.”
Sultan Nazrin said adherence to the rule of law should be the compass and recurring theme for all judges in deciding matters before them, “no matter what the issues are, and no matter whose interests they are deciding”.
The character, qualities and independence of the judges themselves also serve to sustain public confidence in the court, the Sultan explained.
“Doing the right thing is therefore incumbent on all judges. In fact, it is their supreme duty,” he said.