Bar: Set up RCI to investigate 'top judge' over Indira Gandhi case

Ahmad Johari Mohd Ali

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar is calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to be set up immediately to investigate revelations by Justice Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer that he had been “severely reprimanded” by a “top judge” for his dissenting judgment in the Indira Gandhi case at the Court of Appeal.

Its president, George Varughese, said here today that a thorough investigation needed to be undertaken to ascertain the facts and the extent of interference in the ability of judges to make impartial decisions.

He said the inquiry also needed to put in place measures to ensure that no manner of coercion, influence or threat was ever brought to bear on any judge.

Besides investigating serious assertions of judicial misconduct, Varughese said the RCI should also recommend holistic reforms to improve and strengthen the judiciary.

“It is imperative that an RCI into the judiciary be established without delay, and that it leave no stone unturned in carrying out its investigations and making recommendations in order to stamp out improper practices, and for the much-needed reform of the judiciary,” he said.

During presentation as a panellist at the Malaysian Bar’s International Malaysia Law Conference 2018, Justice Hamid Sultan who is also Court Of Appeal Judge further revealed that after the incident he was not assigned or empanelled to hear cases relating to the Federal Constitution and public interest matters.

Varughese said the Malaysian Bar was alarmed over the revelations, which cast grave doubt on the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

He said the alleged incident begged the question as to the prevalence of interference of this nature into the independence of individual judges, and whether similar pressure had been brought to bear on other judges, especially in high-profile public interest cases, and cases involving the state.

He further stressed that, judicial independence was sacrosanct, and formed the cornerstone of a fair and impartial judiciary.

“The spectre of judgments being tainted by undue pressure is very troubling... it severely undermines public confidence in the judiciary, which has for some time been a matter of immense concern to the Malaysian Bar and the public.

“It also unfairly casts aspersions on the integrity and reputation of all past and current office bearers of the judiciary and Federal Court judges, and on the conscientious and scrupulous work of many good judges.” © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd