Yesterday, I went to a colloqium somewhere in Klang Valley. The theme of the colloqium was ‘Judicial Independence’. Among of the key persons who were there to address the issue were, Datuk Khutubul Zaman Bukhari (Formerly, the President of Malaysian Bar), an MP of Jerantut Pahang, Mr. Jagdeep Singh (Senior Partner of Jagdeep & Co.), Datuk Gopal Sri Ram (Appeal Court Judge) and Professor Dr. Abdul Aziz Bari (A Malaysian Constitutional Expert). As we go along, I will describe to you how meaningful the event was towards the future of our judiciary.
Among of the issues that were addressed yesterday are: the present state of our judges, the constitutional aspect of the independence of the judiciary and its power, and the reasons and solutions of corrupt judges that we have in this country. I believe that this event was very insightful as we, the participants, be able to know the actual conduct of our judges from the eyes of senior lawyers and also from the view of a very credible judge in this country, presently.
On the present state of our judges – I rather believe that the revelations made was very shocking, despite the fact that I am aware of these problems, my convictions, have now becoming strongly affirmed. We were told by the panels that, our judges are stupid, as they don’t even know the distinctions and definitions of words in the statute when the judge was at subordinate court level but now the judge has been promoted to become a high court judge. There are also judges in the federal court and appeal court who can’t even produce judgements that can be accepted by a sane man, rightfully. The judgements are very questionable and the grounds provided was even more unacceptable. The panel described that, these are the problems when judges who are not competent enough being selected to become judges.
On the constitutional aspect with respect to the judicial independence, the main questioned was raised yesterday, mainly about Article 121 (1) – the power of the court for judicial review. It is very dissapoiting to know that, the only last avanue for the people or any individual(s) – does not necessarily means human, is no longer have the power that supposedly posses by a judge. It can be said that this power of judicial review is very essential and also an inherent power – as it cannot at all be abrogated. But, when the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir amended this ‘holy’ provision, he actually went beyond his power, despite procedurally he was justified, but substansively he was not justified at all as he removed the main source of the power of the courts to protect the people from abuse of the government, as what he did in the past.
On the reasons of why we have many corrupt judges: many reasons have been stated such as the politically motivated appoinment and also the production of law students at the current law schools in the country. Legal personnel, presently, for quite a long period, have moved from this mindset of taking law at a point that it is viewed as sacred, holy and revered. Everything now, is because of fame and money – notwithstanding, politics. Young lawyers are now incline to really fight for righteousness, everybody is now seeking the simple way of getting things without regard to the cost to the morals. Students at universities, the study at being simplified, most only read notes given by their lecturers not cases or textbooks, where the discussion of law will involve the issue of natural justice and righteousness. Lecturers, their quality have reduced, long ago we have many good lecturers of law but now only a few good lecturers remains, most to an extent, not even capable to answer a simple question of argument of law posed by the students.
Conclusion – we have a very bad judiciary system, despite we have few judges who fight, in their judgements, for an improvement in the judiciary, till the lacking of political will by the current government is hampering this hope as this is evident in the recent issue of having a commission to appoint judges, where the cabinet have rejected the proposal by the Malaysian Bar even after it have been scrutinized by the Attorney-General’s Chamber. What must be done now, is the way of how we see things, we must see it in such as a way that it is not motivated by money or position. This thinking must be in every minds, the society, law students, law lecturers, lawyers, judges, and most of all the government.