Bar Council: JEC should be fair to all aggrieved judges, Gov’t should probe Hamid’s claims

THE rule of law must prevail in all situations, including internal disciplinary matters which involves members of the bench.

“Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer or any other aggrieved judge should have the right to appeal or challenge the decision made by the Judges’ Ethics Committee (JEC), by the way of judicial review or through an independent oversight body,” Bar Council president Salim Bashir told FocusM.

Recently, JEC suspended Hamid until Aug 27, when he is due to retire. The Court of Appeal judge sent shockwaves across the nation when he filed an affidavit in February 2019, claiming that several judges were engaged in corrupt act and abuse of power.

The-then Pakatan Harapan Government mooted the idea to establish a royal commission on inquiry (RCI) to investigate the matter but did not act on it.

In a memoir recently written by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, the latter alleged that the RCI did not materialise as the Government received objections from a number of sitting and retired judges.

Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center) lashed out at the JEC yesterday for proceeding with Hamid’s inquiry despite the latter seeking a postponement due to ill health and pending court hearings.

“This suspension also effectively ends Hamid’s judicial career. Despite his lawyer requesting the JEC to adjourn the hearing due to ill health and a hearing on Friday, they continued anyway without his presence,” C4 was reported saying.

Salim Bashir

JEC laws need tweaking

While he respects JEC’s decisions, Salim said the Malaysian Bar was upset that Hamid was not granted an adjournment despite suffering from ill health.

He added that it was also disappointing that a senior judge like Hamid, who has authored many notable judgements mainly in areas involving constitutional and public laws, was suspended in such a manner.

“Malaysian Bar consistently advocates rights of natural justice in any adjudicative process, as a passage to reach conclusions.

“We feel there were some significant points of law of relevance to public interest, raised by Hamid, which should have been resolved through an appeal process, before JEC decides to sit and enquire.

“One of the points that needs judicial finality is on whether ‘written judgment can be subjected to Disciplinary Committee investigation or not’, which formed part of the complaint against Hamid. At this juncture, the Bar is not aware of the written grounds of JEC on the suspension,” he said.

Salim opined that any aggrieved judge should have the right to appeal or challenge the decision of JEC by way of judicial review or through an independent oversight body.

With that, he urged the Government to amend certain provisions in Judicial Ethics Committee Act 2010, in regards to section 15 of JEC Act, which ousters courts jurisdictions to review JEC’s decision.

“We also call for amendments to Section 8, which will allow open hearings for proceedings of public interest,” Salim added.

He also urged the Government to investigate Hamid’s allegations of corruption among judges, by establishing an Independent Judicial Misconduct Commission to address such matters in the future.

“Independence of the judiciary is a cornerstone of every democratic nation, Malaysian Bar will steadfastly uphold that principles, from any form of encroachments,” Salim remarked. – Feb 7, 2021.



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