KUALA LUMPUR – Judges are free of political interference when delivering judgments, says Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif.

Speaking after a luncheon talk by the Malaysian Press Institute at a hotel here, the top judge said: “As far as the independence of the judiciary (is concerned), I can assure you that we (judges) are independent, free from outside influence and politicians.”

Md Raus said he has his sights set on improving the quality of judges.

“I intend to concentrate on capacity-building through continuous training of judges,” he said at a question-and-answer session.

“In the last four months, when I’m not sitting, I’ve been visiting courts all over the country to meet judges, getting feedback and planning things that needed to be done.

“Most importantly, to ensure that the judges and magistrates are working,” he said at the talk yesterday.

Md Raus is continuing the judicial reforms put in place by the 12th Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, soon after Zaki’s appointment in 2008.

Zaki’s reforms cleared up many backlogged cases and reduced hearing time for newly filed cases, an achievement which was recognised by the World Bank in 2011.

This was a result of initiatives to speed up case processing time such as fast tracking cases, a strict non-postponement policy, computerisation of court rooms and establishment of specialist courts.

“Judicial transformation is a continuing journey,” said Md Raus, who was one of the pioneering members of Zaki’s reform team.

From his visits, Md Raus found that 100% of cases in the magistrate’s courts and 95% of cases in the Sessions courts, both civil and criminal, were being handled within the timeline set.

“For civil cases, the timeline is nine months from the registration date. For criminal cases, it’s nine months for the magistrate’s court and 12 months for the Sessions court,” he added.

In the High Court, 91% of civil cases were being disposed of within nine months while it was 96% for commercial cases and other cases in the Specialised Court within the Commercial Division.

In the Court of Appeal, there were only 55 pre-2016 cases and in the Federal Court, the number of pending cases have been reduced to less than 1,000 in the last four months.

“Despite our success, there are still pre-2016 cases in our courts at all levels,” he said, adding that he has been assured that most of these cases would be settled by the end of 2017.