Judges Must Have Moral Courage To Make Unpopular Decisions

Judges must have moral courage to make decisions that are unpopular with politicians, the media and the public, said Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria.

He said judges should not fear any party being dissatisfied with their decision if they had provided a clear judgement based on established case law authorities.

He said there was no directive issued to judges to agree with the majority decision of the presiding panel at the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

Arifin said this in his speech yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony of 15 judges who were elevated to the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.

A Federal Court panel which presides to hear court cases comprises five or seven judges, and the Court of Appeal panel, three.

Arifin also reminded judges to write their grounds of judgment clearly and in a language which was easily understood by parties, especially those who were not represented lawyers.

In his speech, Arifin also reminded parties, especially lawyers, not to go against the rule of law when voicing their dissatisfaction over a court decision.

He said judges, judicial officers and lawyers should jointly maintain the dignity and integrity of the judiciary to prevent the people’s trust in the country’s justice process from eroding.

“It is the public perception of the judiciary that ultimately, matters. A judiciary loses its value and service to the community if there is no public confidence in its decision-making.

“I urge all parties to be more careful and responsible in their views and opinions on social media sites because the impact would be so extensive and could erode public trust in the judiciary.”

On another issue, he said following the amendments made to the Judges’ Remuneration Act 1971, judges were now allowed to retire before they reached the age of 60, provided they had served as judge for at least five years to enable them to benefit from their pensions.

The new provision is intended to provide flexibility to any judge who feels he cannot continue with his judicial duties, or wants to retire early for whatever reasons before the mandatory retirement age.

Arifin also said he was satisfied that judges had complied with his practice direction which did not allow hearing of court cases to be postponed unless for urgent reasons.

However, he said he found that there were still judges who did not comply with the practice direction requiring them to deliver their decisions not exceeding four weeks and provide their grounds of judgement within eight weeks from the date the case was postponed for decision.

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