Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ex-judges: CJs call the shots

Friday, 13 June 2008

(The Star) - How effectively judges can raise issues without fear during the Conference of Judges depends on who the Chief Justice is, several retired judges said.

They said the conference was an effective forum for issues to be brought up until the removal of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President in 1988.

They said this in response to the question why several judges have, over the years, resorted to making shocking revelations or disturbing statements either in open court, in written judgments or public speeches.

The latest was that of High Court judge Datuk Ian Chin who said he felt threatened by a former prime minister after making two judgments.

He also claimed he was sent to a “boot camp” in 1997 designed to indoctrinate judges and judicial officers to put Government interest above anything else when considering a judgment.

“In the years of former lord presidents Tun Suffian (Hashim), Raja Azlan Shah (as he then was), Tun Salleh and even to a lesser extent Tun Hamid (Omar), nobody would have talked down to us,” said Court of Appeal judge Datuk V.C. George who retired in December 1995.

“They certainly would never have told us how to decide a case. We were able to raise issues without fear and even debate them vociferously at times. “During and after the Tun Salleh debacle, we were never given the opportunity to talk about that.”

Datuk Visu Sinnadurai, who served as a High Court judge from 1992-1997, said that whoever held the post of CJ set the tenor, standards or behaviour for the rest of the judiciary.

“The CJ’s role is important because it is his responsibility to ensure the independence of the judiciary and that the rule of law is upheld at all times.”
Datuk Shaik Daud Ismail, who retired as Court of Appeal judge in June 2001, said: “Judges should be more open and should not be afraid to speak out even though it may hurt (another judge) because it is for the good of the judiciary,” he said.

Asked where judges should take their complaints, he said the Conference of Judges was the only place to go.

Another former judge expressed the hope that Justice Chin would not be asked to resign over his disclosures or if that were to happen, he would not lose his pension or medical benefits as experienced by former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid who had written an anonymous letter alleging improprieties in the judiciary in 1996.

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