The judicial system has improved since Pakatan Harapan won federal power, said former Court of Appeal judge Mah Weng Kwai.
Speaking to reporters after the Selangor Bar Civil Law Conference in Shah Alam today, he said the people’s faith in the justice system has been restored, adding that there has been less political interference over the past few years.
“For a good 20 years, the local judiciary was seen through a negative lens since the 1988 Salleh Abbas case. I think things are beginning to improve, and quite quickly, too.
“I would say it didn’t happen suddenly, but with the change of government, there’s a breath of fresh air.
“There’s the feeling of a little more independence, a little more space for independent thought. Also, if you compare the situation now to before, there is definitely less political interference like we had years and years ago.
“The court’s jurisdiction now belongs to the court, and not Parliament or its executives. This is because we practise constitutional supremacy and not parliamentary diplomacy.”
The 1988 constitutional crisis saw the removal of Salleh as lord president of the Federal Court. His sacking and that of two other apex court judges were seen by many as the end of judicial independence in Malaysia.
The opposition at the time, led by PAS and DAP, blamed Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister and Umno president, for the judges’ dismissal.
Dr Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, had said the country never recovered from the incident, and announced ex gratia compensation for the sacked trio.
On ways to improve procedures at the Court of Appeal, Mah said dissenting judges in a majority ruling should make known the reason for their decision.
The current practice, where a panel produces just one written judgement, should be changed, he said.
“This is so we get to know what made a judge dissent. It’s the same for the Federal Court.
“In fact, it happened yesterday with the ‘bin Abdullah’ case. There were written dissenting judgments, so you could see both sides.”
The top court, in a 4-3 majority decision, ruled that a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock cannot bear the father’s name.
Justice Rohana Yusuf, who delivered the decision, said Section 13A of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 does not apply to the registration of births of Malay-Muslim children, as Malays do not carry surnames.
The majority decision was by Rohana, Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed, and Federal Court judges Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Idrus Harun. Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah, and Federal Court judges Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Nallini Pathmanathan were the minority. – TMI