Chief Justice hits back over relentless attacks on the judiciary.
The criticisms towards judges and the judiciary in recent days have gone overboard, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said today.
She said while judges are open to criticisms, especially when it comes to dealing with high profile cases, the recent attacks were too much.
“Of late, the judiciary has been dealing with high profile, public interest cases. It is normal for judges to receive criticism from parties who are unhappy with the decision of the courts.
“However, the criticism levelled against the judges and the judiciary in the last few days, in my opinion, has gone overboard,” Tengku Maimun said in a speech during the elevation of 17 judicial commissioners as High Court.
She said that judges are not immune to public criticism and cautioned politicians against levelling unfounded accusations on the judiciary.
“Judges are by no means immune to public criticism and accountability to those they serve. We are all subject to scrutiny.
“Hence, citizens including politicians are, to a certain extent, free to criticise the Judiciary.
“However, that does not mean that it is open to citizens including politicians to level unfounded and scurrilous attacks against the Judiciary or a particular judge to further their own end,” she said.
As the last line of defence in a constitutional democracy, there should never be any suspicions that the judiciary is “captured”, she said.
“When a need arises for the judiciary to be criticised, this should be done in a manner that is constructive and does not undermine its independence and public confidence in the Judiciary.
“No one should sow the seeds of doubts among the public concerning the integrity of the judiciary or judges.”
She reminded judges that they should not be discouraged by recent events but instead do their duty in accordance to the law.
“Under no circumstances, should we falter. The integrity of the justice system and the independence of the judiciary can never be compromised under any circumstances.
“Come what may, we must remain strong and resilient and be steadfast in upholding the rule of law.”
Tengku Maimun warned those who seek tarnish and meddle in the affairs of the judiciary, calling on judges to be steadfast in their decisions.
“Whilst we cannot control the words or actions of some quarters who are bent on tarnishing or destroying the image of the judiciary, it is within our control to ensure that no one meddles in our affairs.
“In other words, there can be no interference in the judiciary if we judges do not allow that to happen.
“And, interference will not happen so long as cases are decided without fear or favour, without ill-will or motive, without any external or internal pressure and without regard to personalities.”
Regardless of the allegations and criticisms that have been hurled at the judiciary, as long as the judiciary holds on to its principles and decides matters based on evidence and law, the institution will be firm and respected, she said.
Tengku Maimun’s remark comes after allegations that she had agreed to interfere in the court cases of former prime minister Najib Razak and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, which led to the office of the chief registrar of the Federal Court to lodge a police report denying it.
The office had said there was no basis to the claim that the chief justice had agreed to expedite the cases against the two politicians.
Former High Court Judge and now Court of Appeal Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali who presided over Najib’s SRC International trial also lodged a report last week over a news article alleging that he was being investigated for unexplained money in his bank account.
The office of the chief registrar said Nazlan denied the “false, baseless and malicious allegations” aimed at undermining his credibility as a Court of Appeal judge. – TMI