The Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC) has identified three women Federal Court judges as frontrunners to be the next Chief Judge of Malaya (CJM), the third highest judicial office in the country, sources said.
Elevated to the Federal Court on Nov 26, 2018, Nalini is the most senior judge of the trio. Both Zabariah and Hasnah were appointed on Dec 5, 2019.
The mandatory retirement age of judges is 66, but the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may extend their tenure by another six months on the advice of the Chief Justice.
“If one of them is appointed, she will be the third woman to hold the post,” one source told FMT.
Siti Normah Yaakob was the first in 2005, while Zaharah Ibrahim was appointed in 2018.
Current CJM Zabidin Diah will retire in March next year following a six-month extension to his term of office.
However, another source told FMT that Justices Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, 63, Nordin Hassan, 60, Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, 64, and Abu Bakar Jais, 61, are also being considered for the post.
Nordin, Bakar and Karim cannot be discounted despite being the three most recent appointments to the apex court, the source said.
As an example, the source said, Zabidin was made a judge of the top court early last year, but leapfrogged more senior judges to be appointed CJM in January this year.
The source also said the JAC may consider Nordin and Bakar for the post to prepare them to lead the judiciary when Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Court of Appeal president Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim retire in early 2026.
Meanwhile, lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar said that under the law, the nine-member JAC chaired by the chief justice only recommends a nominee for the position to the prime minister.
“Section 27 of the JAC Act also states that on receiving a report on appointments, the prime minister may request two additional names for his consideration,” he said.
He said this is because Article 122 of the Federal Constitution states that the appointments of judges to the top administrative positions in the judiciary are made by the King, acting on the advice of the prime minister, and after consultations with the Conference of Rulers. – FMT