Criticism on judgements by the public must be fair – CJ

PUTRAJAYA: Criticism by the public on court judgments must be done constructively, respectfully and in good faith, said Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif.

He said one should not simply test the outcome of a judicial decision against one’s political belief.

“I recognise the constitutional right of every citizen to challenge and test the correctness of our judgments through due processes. We do accept that our judgments are open to criticism by the public at large,” he said in his speech at the opening of the Judicial Year 2018.

He said it was important that the right to comment or criticise court judgments should be responsibly exercised as it was crucial for the credibility of the courts not to suffer since it was to the courts that citizens go to protect their constitutional rights.

Raus said lawyers especially, should be temperate in their reaction and exercise restraint, circumspection and plain good manners before making unwarranted remarks against the judiciary especially in public debates and discussions. Raus said it was imperative that critics must have an accurate understanding of the facts, the issues involved and the applicable laws.

“I recognise that judges are not infallible and must be open to criticism. Nevertheless, harsh and unwarranted criticism threatens the foundation of the rule of law and weakens the judiciary in the performance of its constitutional duties,” he said.

He said the judicial system was a self-correcting one so that a litigant who is dissatisfied with the court’s decision could approach the next level through the appeal process.

The Judicial Year 2018 which was held at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) was attended by about 700 people from the legal fraternity comprising judges, retired judges, officers from the judiciary, officers from the Attorney-General Chambers and a number of lawyers.

The event, previously called the Opening of the Legal Year has now been renamed the Opening of the Judicial Year which saw the Chief Justice delivering the sole speech instead of three speeches — from the Malaysian Bar President and the Attorney-General.

In his speech, Raus said for this year, the judiciary’s objective was that there should not be any postponement once a hearing date has been fixed for a case.

He said once the date for trial has been fixed, the case should proceed continuously till the end, adding that multiple postponements have been endemic in the courts for many years.

“Adjournments should only be granted in extraordinary circumstances. Adjournments of trials must be a rarity,” he said, adding that the Malaysian Bar must play a proactive role on this matter.

“As a rule, I will no longer entertain blanket applications for postponement of cases citing conferences, AGM, EGM, etc. Similarly, the Attorney-General’s Chambers should also follow this strict rule. The rule is that there shall be no postponement, except in the event of death or near death,” he said.

Raus said the judiciary re-affirms its abiding commitment to its mission to maintain an independent and competent judicial system which upholds the rule of law, safeguards the rights and freedoms of the individual and commands domestic and international confidence.

Raus said the public could rest assured that the judiciary was conscious of its constitutional role in ensuring the acts of the Executive and the Legislature complied fully with the law and citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms were fully protected.

“It is not the function of the judiciary to meddle in matters which are properly within the responsibility of the Executive or Legislature. Similarly, we expect the Executive and Legislature not to meddle in matters which are within the realm of the judiciary,” he said.

Raus also said the working relationship between the judiciary, Bar and the Attorney-General’s Chambers must and be maintained and he added that he would endeavour to maintain and cultivate the tradition of working together with the Bar, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and other stakeholders.

He said a good system of justice required the co-operation of the Bench, the Attorney-General and his officers and the Bar to achieve the ultimate objective of serving the public.

Raus also announced the completion of two new court complexes this year in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and in Tapah, Perak which would be ready by March. — Bernama

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