Chief Justice: “Judiciary made scapegoat each time criminal charges are withdrawn in high-profile cases”

CHIEF Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat has lamented about how the judiciary is incorrectly labelled as “corrupt” and “incompetent” by the public after the public prosecutor had withdrawn criminal charges against certain high profile individuals.

Tengku Maimun said the judicial system becomes a “punching bag” for people to vent their anger, thus eroding public confidence in the nation’s judiciary.

“What the public fail to understand is that it is the public prosecutor and not the court that is responsible [for discharging an individual],” Tengku Maimun said in her keynote speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2024 in Putrajaya on Monday (Jan 15).

“When the public prosecutor withdraws a charge, the judge has one or two limited options: The options are granting a discharge not amounting to an acquittal or discharge amounting to an acquittal.

“They [the judges] can’t insist the charges remain. Both (judges and prosecutors) have constitutionally demarcated functions and both must be judged fairly. Yet when a charge is withdrawn, the judge is labelled as corrupt or incompetent or both.”

Without specifically naming the cases, Tengku Maimun cited certain “high profile” cases in 2023 where the public prosecutor as part of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had withdrawn charges against political persons.

Meanwhile, she further noted that the judicial institution as well as judges must be free to make their own decisions and that the decision must be made based solely on the facts and the law without any other considerations.

“Unlike politicians, judges do not, and indeed, cannot answer to or be governed by political will or popularity,” she remarked.

“A judge is meant to be an independent constitutional arbiter of justice between the state and its subjects (and vice versa) as well as between subjects inter se.

“His or her loyalties are apparent in a constitutionally-ordained judicial oath taken to protect, preserve and defend the Federal Constitution.”

Also attending the event was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said. – Jan 15, 2024


Main pic credit: The Edge Malaysia

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