‘Outsider’ may fill vacant Chief Judge of Malaya post, says source

‘Outsider’ may fill vacant Chief Judge of Malaya post, says source

‘Outsider’ may fill vacant Chief Judge of Malaya post, says source
Former Chief Justice of Malaya Zabidin Diah (left) retired in February, leaving the position vacant, with Court of Appeal president Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim standing in pending the appointment of a replacement.

PUTRAJAYA: The authorities are toying with the idea of roping in an “outsider” for appointment as a Federal Court judge and fill the vacant position of Chief Judge of Malaya (CJM), the third highest post in the judiciary, according to a source.

The source said one candidate being considered is Attorney-General (AG) Ahmad Terrirudin Salleh, since he satisfies all the constitutional requirements.

Article 145 of the Federal Constitution states the person appointed as AG must be qualified to be a judge of the Federal Court, the source told FMT.

Under Article 123, a person qualifies to be a Federal Court judge if he is a citizen, and if for the ten years preceding his appointment he has been a practising lawyer or a member of the judicial and legal services.

A precedent for this was established when Mohtar Abdullah was made Federal Court judge soon after he retired as AG in 2002.


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At the time, it was widely believed that Mohtar would rise to become chief justice.

However, less than three months into his term, Mohtar suffered a stroke. He died on July 7, 2003, aged 59.

Another option being considered, according to the source, is to scout for a senior lawyer who has been in practice for at least 10 years in accordance with Article 123 of the constitution.

The source said a precedent for this was set in September 2007 when lawyer Zaki Azmi was appointed Federal Court judge. He was made the Court of Appeal president three months later.

Zaki, who was once an officer in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, was eventually appointed chief justice, the top judicial post, in October 2008. He retired three years later.


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“The Judicial Appointments Commission is still hopeful that one of the Federal Court judges will be appointed to hold the administrative post,” the source added.

Presently, Court of Appeal president Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim is performing the duties and functions of the CJM on an interim basis pending a permanent appointment to the position.

The previous CJM Zabidin Diah went on mandatory retirement on Feb 29.

In March, FMT reported that the commission had initially sent the name of a candidate for the position to the Prime Minister’s Department for consideration. An additional two names were submitted later, as required under the law.

However, the source said all three candidates were relatively junior. As a result, the appointment of a new CJM was not on the agenda at the last meeting of the Conference of Rulers.


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Lawyer Salim Bashir said under Article 122B of the Federal Constitution, all appointments of judges to the top positions in the judiciary are made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the prime minister, and in consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

“The prime minister has a hand in the appointments of superior court judges, similar to nominations to other key public offices in the country,” he said.

The former Malaysian Bar president said candidates for judgeship must be remarkable and have integrity, write sound judgments and have good judicial temperament.

Lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali said the JAC could propose names but the prime minister is not bound to accept them.

“He can override the JAC Act and the commission since the constitution is the supreme law of the land,” he said, adding that morale among judges would be low if someone from outside is parachuted in.

Rafique said it would be pointless to have a commission if the selection criteria set out in the JAC Act can be cast aside to accommodate other considerations.

Of the 10 apex court judges, Justice Nallini Pathmanathan is the most senior. However, she is scheduled to retire in August next year unless her appointment is extended for an additional six months.

Next on the seniority list are Justices Zabariah Yusof, who will leave office in April next year, and Hasnah Hashim (May 2025).

Justice Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal will retire in October this year, Justice Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil (April 2025), Justice Hanipah Farikullah (May 2025), Justice Rhodzariah Bujang (Nov 2027), Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera (Jan 2028), Justice Abu Bakar Jais (June 2028), and Justice Nordin Hassan (July 2029).

‘Outsider’ may fill vacant Chief Judge of Malaya post, says source



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