Reports By ZAKIAH KOYA, ABDUL RAZAK AHMAD,NURBAITI HAMDAN and MAZWIN NIK ANIS
PETALING JAYA: Calls are growing louder for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the stunning revelations of a judge of “judicial rowdyism” in Malaysian courts.
While an RCI was the most preferred mechanism suggested, the country’s top constitution expert instead suggested an internal inquiry, saying previously held RCIs had not yielded any result.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, giving his take on the controversy, said the government would study the calls for an RCI to investigate Court of Appeal judge Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer’s 65-page affidavit alleging serious judicial misconduct.
“However, we don’t really run down the judiciary openly,” he told reporters yesterday.
Bar Council vice-president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said an RCI would not only be able to investigate the serious allegations made, but also recommend holistic reforms to improve and strengthen the judiciary.
“Judicial independence is sacrosanct and the spectre of judgments being tainted by undue pressure is very troubling,” said Abdul Fareed.
In his affidavit filed on Thursday, Hamid Sultan alleged much impropriety within the judiciary.
Among others, he claimed that a top judge, whom he referred to as “ARLC”, became a sort of a “maharajalela” (executioner) dictating what judges should do and write.
ARLC, he said, stood for “Antagonist of Rule of Law and Constitution”.
He cited a few instances where he and fellow judges were harassed and threatened by ARLC to influence their decisions in courts.
Hamid Sultan also claimed that scams were carried out by nominees of politicians getting into contracts with the government, but once the government pulled out, the private parties would take the government to court to claim compensation.
The judge said that he would “tell all” in an RCI.
Former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasen said while the RCI must be held in such a manner that did not undermine the judiciary, it was important to investigate the matters raised in the affidavit.
She said an RCI was pertinent as the sworn affidavit by Hamid Sultan disclosed very disturbing matters which warranted a full investigation.
“An RCI is called for, or at the very least, a special inquiry. The institution of the judiciary and its independence is vital to the lifeblood of the nation and its democracy.
“This is why it is important to address the matters raised in the affidavit.
“This in a fair manner that also vindicates the many who carry out their judicial functions with integrity,” said Ambiga, saying the RCI should consist of former senior and respected judges, at least one representative of the Bar and a layperson.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) advisor N. Surendran said the body had proof of interference with subordinate court judges in politically sensitive issues, as alleged by Hamid Sultan.
He said this included a case where a top judge interfered with a high profile “political” prosecution at the Shah Alam Sessions Court during the Barisan Nasional administration.
“We believe this top judge may be the same ‘ARLC’ referred to by judge Hamid. We are prepared to provide all information to an RCI,’’ he added.
Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng said as much as the government “can remain silent”, it must ensure that justice is seen to be done as far as the judiciary was concerned.
Besides the RCI, Lim suggested that an emergency session of Parliament to be held.
“An RCI appears to be the best option. Action must be prompt and timely in order to restore public confidence in the judiciary,” said the lawyer.
Constitutional law expert Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said while an RCI may enforce respectability, “many RCIs have been held but no one knows what happened after that.”
He said that there were already three ongoing investigations into the allegations - an internal one, a police investigation and a case which has been filed.
“An RCI does not make a decision and the results are left to the Executive to enforce,” said Shad Saleem.
He also asked if it was possible for a judge to be tried for contempt of court for interfering with the judiciary.
“Those alleged in the affidavit may also be removed according to the Article 125 (3) and Article 125 (3A) as they may still be on the Bench,” said Shad Saleem.
He explained that it was quite normal for even the most developed democracies to have judges trying to influence fellow judges in an effort to come to a unanimous decision.
“All hats must be put together to resolve this amicably and not through a blunt instrument of justice.
“Ultimately, it is about the issue of morality and integrity of the judiciary,’’ he added.
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