PUTRAJAYA: Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat has rebuked critics of high-profile cases, saying that the recent public disapproval had “gone overboard”.
She said of late, there had been high profile cases involving public interest at the courts and it was common for judges to receive criticisms from those who were disappointed with court decisions.
She said while the public, including politicians, were free to criticise the judiciary to a certain extent, it did not mean that they could level unfounded and scurrilous attacks against the judiciary or a particular judge to further their own ends.
“It is important to emphasise that the judiciary is the last line of defence in a constitutional democracy and there must never be a suspicion that the judiciary is captured,” Tengku Maimun said in her speech during the swearing-in ceremony of newly-appointed High Court judges at the Palace of Justice here yesterday.
The country’s top judge said when a need arises for the judiciary to be criticised, it must be done in a manner that was constructive and would not undermine its independence and confidence.
“No one should sow the seeds of doubts among the public concerning the integrity of the judiciary or judges,” Tengku Maimun said.
In her strongly-worded speech, she called for the judges not to falter and not to allow interference as the integrity of the justice system and the independence of the judiciary must never be compromised under any circumstances.
“Come what may, we must remain strong, resilient and steadfast in upholding the rule of law.
“Whilst we cannot control the words or actions of some parties who are bent on tarnishing or destroying the image of the judiciary, it is within our control to ensure that no one meddles in our affairs.
“In other words, there can be no interference in the judiciary if we judges do not allow that to happen,” she said.
Interference, Tengku Maimun said, would not happen as long as cases were decided without fear or favour, ill-will or motive, any external or internal pressure or regard to the personalities involved.
“Public or popular views do not matter. Cases are decided based on evidence in court and established principles of law, including the stare decisis (the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions).
“Whatever allegations and tribulations that confront us, these principles must be adhered to. Only if we adhere to these paramount principles, are we worthy of being called judges,” she said.
Recently, the judiciary has come under fire over several public interest cases with mounting criticisms and divided opinions from the public.
Two such cases involved clerk Sam Ke Ting, who was convicted by the Johor Baru High Court for reckless driving in a basikal lajak (modified bicycles) incident, as well as the trial of Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali, who is accused of abusing a Down Syndrome teenager named Bella.
The judiciary also faced attacks when Court of Appeal judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali (then a High Court judge) convicted and sentenced former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the misappropriation of RM42mil of SRC International funds.
Justice Mohd Nazlan was alleged to have “unexplained RM1mil in his bank account” as claimed by blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.
The judiciary has since described the article as “false, baseless and malicious allegations” aimed at tarnishing Justice Mohd Nazlan’s credibility and to interfere with the justice system and the judicial institution.
The Malaysian Bar, in its support for the judiciary, has called for a balanced investigation by the authorities.