PETALING JAYA: Now that the two top judges of the country have announced their impending resignation, names of some Federal Court judges have been put forward by senior lawyers and retired senior judges to fill their posts.
Of all the names, the two that kept popping up are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (pic) and Federal Court judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali.
Going by that score, then we would most likely have the first Sabahan Chief Justice of Malaysia or the first woman top judge.
Senior lawyer S.N. Nair, who proposed Zainun and Malanjum, said the Bar and the people were entitled to have good judges with integrity and knowledge.
“This candidate I would call for to be made the Chief Justice is one who made a landmark ruling even during (Datuk Seri) Najib’s (Razak) era.
“She set right what was wrong when judicial power was taken away from the High Court. She is Justice Zainun Ali,” Nair said, referring to the landmark ruling in April last year of Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat.
The decision made clear that “judicial power” – to decide disputes between the government and its citizens, as well as between subjects in civil and criminal matters – lies only with the judiciary under Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution.
Nair added that Zainun had courageously reinstated the principle which was a groundbreaking principle.
“I would like to say that it takes courage and I must commend the Bench itself led by her on that day.”
He described Zainun as independent, impartial and “has a mind of her own” and acted professionally.
“She acts in a very dignified manner which is required of a judge.
“We also like to have a beautiful face in the news every now and then. Brains and beauty, what more do we want?” Nair quipped.
As for Malanjum, Nair suggested that he be promoted to the second top post of Court of Appeal president.
“He has served many years and he has been bypassed,” Nair said, adding that the two would be exemplary choices. The appointment of these two, if it happens, will give an immediate spring to the dignity and stature of the Judiciary.
“This is what the Judiciary needs now. Now that we have a new AG to glorify the AG’s Chambers.”
Retired Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said that both Zainun and Malanjum are competent for the top posts.
“Richard is very senior and he is due for retirement this October unless granted a six-month extension.
“Zainun’s independence of thought is very valuable to the Judiciary,” he said, adding that these were the only two he would recommend.
On the resignation of the two current top judges, Sri Ram said they should go at once instead of waiting till July 31.
“By postponing their departure, they are hurting the chances of Richard and Zainun from serving the country as CJ.
“However, if the Government gets two-thirds majority in Parliament as appears likely to happen, then the Federal Constitution can be amended to increase the age of retirement to 70, in which case both Richard and Zainun Ali will not be prejudiced.
“Notwithstanding that possibility, Raus and Zul should go at once,’’ Sri Ram said.
Echoing Sri Ram’s view was retired Federal Court judge Datuk Abdul Kadir Sulaiman who thinks the two judges are the most suitable for the job.
Senior lawyer Datuk Salehuddin Saidin also named Malanjum as among the potential candidates. Two other names given by him were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop and Federal Court judge Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed.
Founder and president of the International Movement for a Just World Dr Chandra Muzaffar reckoned that there needs to be an amendment to the Constitution to allow judges to serve until 70.
“Most often we will find that the good candidates are about to retire and granted just six months more. If it is not an issue in other countries, then it shouldn’t be here,” said the senior academician and activist.
Whoever is appointed, he added, the appointment should not be one that had been influenced by political considerations and must adhere strictly to rules and procedures established within the structure of the Judiciary.
“The Judiciary has gone through difficult times in the past, it is important for it to recover its stature. Let the new CJ be the one setting the tone and tenor for justice in this country,’’ said Dr Chandra.