A resounding majority of almost 1,000 lawyers voted in the resolutions to legally challenge the extended tenures of the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President, and snubbing the duo for social functions.
- The duo: Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, two of the four most high-ranking judges in Malaysia
Timeline for Raus:
- Feb 4 – Raus turned 66, term extended for 6 months to Aug 3
- Jul 7 – Statement from PM’s Office, term further extended another 3 years from Aug 4
- Aug 4 – The Bar wants Raus to retire upon reaching 66 years 6 months of age
Timeline for Zulkefli:
- Mar 28 – Zulkefli turned 66, term extended for 6 months to Sep 27
- Jul 7 – Statement from PM’s Office, term further extended another 2 years from Sep 28
- Sep 28 – The Bar wants Zulkefli to retire upon reaching 66 years 6 months of age
- Constitutional age limit of Federal Court judge: 66 years and six months
The Bar Council will initiate a legal proceeding to challenge the reappointments of
Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and President of the Court of Appeal Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges in the Federal Court as it was unconstitutional.
“Their reappointments after they have exceeded 66 years old are null, void and unconstitutional,” Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said after the Bar’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) yesterday.
“We urge Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop to assume the position of Chief Justice and advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V to appoint retired judges as additional judges of Federal Court to hear our challenge.
“Usually they (Federal Court) consist of a five-member panel but perhaps they can increase it to a seven or nine-member panel to determine this issue,” George said.
The Bar Council’s planned lawsuit to challenge the tenure extensions of Malaysia’s two most senior judges is “unprecedented”, according to George, adding that it was necessary to get a completely new panel of judges to avoid “conflict of interest”.
“Surely they will be in a position of conflict of interest if either of them were to preside over the bench which decides in respect of the legal challenge.
“In fact, we hold the view that all members of the current Federal Court will also be equally conflicted in presiding or deciding over such a challenge. Hence, that is why we are urging the Chief Judge of Malaya to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint additional judges specifically to hear this court matter,” he said.
George said “additional judges” who may be appointed under Article 122 (1A) of the Federal Constitution are those who previously held high judicial office.
Besides Raus, Zulkefli and Ahmad, the other most high-ranking judge in Malaysia is Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
The resolution that it would be unconstitutional and invalid for Raus and Zulkefli to continue in their current positions beyond the constitutional age limit of 66 years and six months was part of the eight resolutions voted in by a resounding majority of 993 lawyers who attended the EGM.
The Bar Council called on Raus and Zulkefli to decline the reappointments and retire today and on Sep 27, respectively, when the extensions end.
The members agreed also to snub the duo for social functions and dinners.
“This resolution is similar to the one adopted following the 1988 judicial crisis.
“It is a form of protest to show our discontentment with the unconstitutional appointments. However, we are not personally against Raus and Zulkefli,” George said.
He said the nature of the social events would be decided by the Bar Council which manages the affairs of the Bar.
“But we will engage the judiciary in official matters like attending the rules committee meetings,” he added
George also said that the legal action would be taken “very soon”.
Lawyers have fiercely objected to the Jul 7 statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office which said that Raus was to continue serving as an additional judge in the Federal Court and as Chief Justice of the Federal Court for another three years from this Aug 4.
Zulkefli was to continue serving as an additional judge in the same court and as President of the Court of Appeal for another two years from this Sep 28.
Both previously had their services as judges extended for another six months after hitting the age of 66, with Raus’s term extended from Feb 4 to Aug 3, while Zulkefli’s term from Mar 28 until Sep 27.
Most retired judges are also of the view that no Federal Court judge can remain in his administrative post after reaching 66 years and six months of age.
On Wednesday, Pakatan Harapan leaders submitted a memorandum to the king, seeking his intervention to stop the reappointments of Raus and Zulkefli, which they also claimed were unconstitutional.