Putra Jaya – Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif Saturday defended his reappointment as the country’s top judge, questioning why he should decline the position.He said although the move was unprecedented, everything was done according to due process of law where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the power to appoint judges under the Federal Constitution.
“Of course there are conflicting views on this. As I said, lawyers always disagree,” he said.
“So it is nothing strange for lawyers to disagree on the interpretation of the constitution.
It happens every day in court,” he told a press conference at the Palace of Justice here.
Raus was referring to the controversial extension of his tenure as Chief Justice, as well as that of Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as Court of Appeal president, by the government last month, by way of appointing them as additional judges of the Federal Court after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 66.
The Malaysian Bar announced on Thursday that it will file a suit to challenge their appointments as additional judges to remain in their posts.
It claimed that no Federal Court judge can remain in his administrative post after reaching 66 years and six months of age.
Raus said that he respected the Bar’s views, but added that it would have to respect the court’s decision on the matter as there are two voices on whether the move is constitutional or otherwise.
“So they can file their case in court and let the court decide who is right and who is wrong,” he said.
Raus and Zulkefli were sworn in to their current positions at a ceremony at Istana Negara at 10pm on Friday.
Raus said the reason for the late timing was that it was based on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s availability and there was nothing “sinister” about it.
Raus took his oath for three years with immediate effect.
He received his instrument of appointment from the at Bilik Singgahsana Kecil, Istana Negara.
Present at the function were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop and Chief Registrar of the Federal Court Datuk Seri Latifah Mohd Tahar.
Last April 1, Md Raus was appointed as Malaysia’s 14th Chief Justice, taking over from Tun Arifin Zakaria who retired at age 66 years and six months on March 31. The retirement age for judges is 66 years.
Md Raus’ service as Court of Appeal president was earlier extended for six months from Feb 4 till Aug 3.
On April 1, he was appointed as the new Chief Justice.
On July 7, the Prime Minister’s Office in a statement said Md Raus would serve as Chief Justice for three years from Aug 3 after being appointed as an additional judge for the Federal Court on the same date and for the same period.
Raus also said it is fine if the Bar refuses to invite Zulkelfi and him for its social events, adding that there are not many events organised by the Bar.
He added that he will continue inviting the Bar for events under his office, but it is up to them to attend.
“But we will invite them, but it’s up to them if they want to come, we have no problem,” he said.
Bar president George Varughese said during the body’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Thursday that it will not extend invitations to Raus and Zulkefli, or attend social events involving them.
“This resolution is similar to the one adopted following the 1988 judicial crisis,” he said, referring to the sacking of judges under the administration of then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“It is a form of protest to show our discontentment with the unconstitutional appointments.
However, we are not personally against Raus and Zulkefli,” he added.
He said the nature of the social events would be decided by the Bar Council which manages the affairs of the Bar.
“But we will engage the judiciary in official matters like attending the rules committee meetings,” he said.
The government appointed Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges four weeks ago.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the Prime Minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers which met in May, had reappointed Raus and Zulkefli to remain in their present posts.
Pakatan Harapan leaders have submitted a memorandum to the king, seeking his intervention to stop the reappointments which they also claimed were unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, former opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim criticised the swearing in of Raus calling it a “black moment in Malaysia’s judicial and constitutional history”.
“This appointment, and the subsequent appointment of Zulkefli as Court of Appeal President, is being pushed through by (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak despite the protests of a wide section of society, including legal luminaries, the Malaysian Bar and elected representatives.
“Most of all, the plain reading of the provisions of the Federal Constitution, forbid these appointments,” Anwar said, before commending the “strong and principled stance taken against this unconstitutional appointment” by Pakatan Harapan MPs who delivered a memorandum against it to the King on Aug 2.
Anwar, who is currently in the middle of a five-year jail term, said the resolutions passed by the Malaysian Bar at their EGM on Thursday also shows the gravity of the issue among the legal fraternity.
“The Malaysian Bar’s actions, including the declaration of no-confidence in Raus, is a measure of the Bar’s grave concern over these irregular appointments.
“These appointments highlight Najib’s continuing disregard for constitutional propriety and the rule of law in Malaysia,” he said.