Malaysian Bar: Top judges' resignation paves way for reform, independence

Kenneth Tee
Varughese said the duo’s action had eroded public trust and confidence in the independence of the judiciary. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PETALING JAYA, June 13 — The Malaysian Bar said today the resignation of Tun Raus Sharif and Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges signalled the start of judicial reform and stronger independence of the judiciary.

In a statement, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said positions of high judicial office must always be beyond reproach, but the two had undermined the status and stature of their offices by failing to heed the “widespread disquiet” over their appointments.

He said the duo’s action had eroded public trust and confidence in the independence of the judiciary, and their decision to accept their appointments has done the nation a great disservice.

“The judicial branch of government must always be truly independent, in order to uphold the Federal Constitution and promote fidelity to the rule of law,” George said.

“The Malaysian Bar views these resignations as a precursor to judicial reform and the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary.”

He added that by resigning before the completion of their terms of office, it can be presumed that they conceded their appointment as Chief Justice (CJ) and President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) were in breach of the Federal Constitution.

Both Raus and Zulkefli had held their positions as CJ and PCA since April 1, 2017, with their term for these positions controversially extended past their constitutional retirement age under the Najib administration.

The Chief Registrar's Office said their resignations will take effect on July 31.

“The Malaysian Bar thus reiterates our call upon Raus and Zulkefli to vacate their positions as additional judges, as well as their positions as CJ and PCA, respectively, with immediate effect, instead of continuing to remain in office until 31 July 2018,” he said.