Malaysian Bar President George Varughese says that any attempt by a top judge to restrict the right of other judges to perform their duties is a serious case of legal misconduct.
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian balbars have today called for the immediate establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate serious allegations of misconduct by the judiciary.
The RCI should also recommend holistic reforms to improve and strengthen the judiciary, Bar-President George Varughese said in a statement.
He said the bar was "alarmed" about the recent revelations by Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who had expressed serious doubts about the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
During his presentation as panelist at the Malaysian Bar's International Malaysia Law Conference 2018 on August 16, Hamid said he was "heavily reprimanded" by a "Supreme Judge" for his dissent in the unilateral conversion case of M Indira Gandhi.
He added that he was subsequently not assigned or clothed to deal with matters related to the federal constitution and matters of public interest.
Varughese said that any attempt by a supreme court, or another judge, to restrict the ability of other judges to exercise their autonomy in the exercise of their legal duties was an abuse of power and a serious case of legal misconduct.
"The reprimand of a judge for a decision based on the facts and the applicable laws, but that is not to the wishes of the highest court, would undoubtedly send a warning signal to others within the judiciary to adjust and line to follow.
"This would undoubtedly and unacceptably affect the ability of a judge to fulfill his or her duty.
"The alleged incident raises the question about the prevalence of interference of this nature in the independence of individual judges, and whether similar pressure has been exerted on other judges, especially in conspicuous cases of public interest, and cases involving the state," he said.
Varughese said that a thorough investigation was needed to find out the facts and degree of interference in the ability of judges to take impartial decisions.
Measures must also be taken to ensure that no compulsion, influence or threat is ever exercised on a judge, he said.
"Judicial independence is sacred and is the cornerstone of a fair and impartial judiciary.
"The specter of judgments that are contaminated by excessive pressure is very disturbing.
"It seriously undermines the public's trust in the judiciary, which has been a huge concern for the Malaysian bar and the public for some time."
Varughese said the incident also unfairly made statements about the integrity and reputation of all former and current office bearers of the judiciary and judges of the federal court, and about the conscientious and meticulous work of many good judges.
That is why it was absolutely essential for him to quickly set up an RCI in the judiciary.
He said that it should leave no stone unturned in conducting his investigations and making recommendations to eradicate inappropriate practices and the much-needed reform of the judiciary.