Ex-judges: Handle judiciary ‘breach of etiquette’ internally

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Two former judges have stressed that accusations of conflict of interest involving the judiciary should be investigated and handled internally.

Former appellate judges Hishamudin Md Yunus and Mah Weng Kwai also said the MACC is only empowered to investigate cases related to corruption under the MACC Act.

This comes as the legal fraternity railed against an MACC investigation against judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali who convicted former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak in 2020.

Former Malaysian Bar presidents yesterday called the investigation an “assault” on the judiciary.

Both Hishamudin and Mah said there is a mechanism in place within the judiciary to look into allegations of conflict of interest against judges.

“As a rule, any complaint of a breach of the Code of Ethics by a High Court judge must be referred to the chief justice. If the chief justice were to find that there is no merit in the complaint, she will dismiss the complaint after consulting with the Chief Judge Malaya or Chief Judge Sabah and Sarawak.

“On the other hand, if the chief justice finds that there is merit in the complaint, then she will refer the complaint to the Judges’ Ethics Committee.

“But if the complaint is of a serious nature that merits the removal of the judge, if found guilty, then the chief justice must refer the complaint to a tribunal appointed under Article 125 of the Federal Constitution.

“Where the complaint is only referred to the Judges Ethics Committee, the committee will refer the complaint to the judge concerned who will be given the right to make a representation, both written and oral. Having heard the judge’s representation, if the committee finds the judge innocent of the complaint, the committee must acquit the judge.

“On the other, if the committee were to find the judge guilty of the complaint, the committee will impose a sanction, like admonition or suspension,” Hishamudin was quoted as saying.

Mah, who was one of the signatories of the statement yesterday from the former Malaysian Bar presidents, reiterated his stand that anything dealing with breaches of ethics should be dealt with by the judicial ethics committee.

“It is definitely not within the jurisdiction of the MACC because they can investigate allegations of corruption…but when it comes to ethics, this is for the judicial ethics committee to sort it out,” he said.

Hishamudin also said the ethics committee is to deal with allegations that are not very serious in nature, but for serious allegations, the judges will be referred to a tribunal.

Members of the tribunal will be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and may consist of either serving or former judges or even foreign judges, he added.

Hishamudin also pointed out that Nazlan has been exonerated in the court of law twice.

The first time was when the Federal Court comprising five judges dismissed Najib’s appeal. In dismissing the appeal, the court ruled that there was no merit in the MACC’s allegation against Nazlan.

The second time, Hishamudin said, was in the recent review application hearing by Najib in the SRC International case, where a majority of judges said there was no merit in the allegations against Nazlan.

“So, on two counts, judge Nazlan has been exonerated, so I think the matter should be put to rest,” he said.

Separately, he said a seven-person bench led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat in the Federal Court also ruled that the MACC investigation against Nazlan was done without following protocol.