The Malaysian Bar refers to the press statement issued by Sangeet Kaur Deo on 15 February 2019 entitled “Sangeet Kaur Deo v Ketua Hakim Negara, Malaysia”. We categorically refute her unfounded assertion that the Malaysian Bar has remained silent on the allegations of judicial interference that were made by Justice Datuk Dr Haji Hamid Sultan bin Abu Backer (“Justice Hamid Sultan”), a judge of the Court of Appeal.
On 20 August 2018, soon after Justice Hamid Sultan’s initial revelation that he had been “severely reprimanded” by a “top judge” for his dissenting judgment in the “Indira Gandhi” case at the Court of Appeal (Pathmanathan Krishnan v Indira Gandhi Mutho & other appeals  1 CLJ 911), and that he was subsequently not assigned or empanelled to hear cases relating to the Federal Constitution and public interest matters, the Malaysian Bar issued a press statement entitled “Establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Judiciary is Imperative to Restore and Protect the Integrity of the Judiciary”. In that statement, we called “for the immediate setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (“RCI”) to investigate these serious assertions of judicial misconduct, as well as recommend holistic reforms to improve and strengthen the Judiciary”.
In another press statement on 29 November 2018, we repeated our call for an RCI into the matter to be established without delay, as “it is imperative that immediate measures are taken to ensure that no manner of coercion, influence or threat is ever brought to bear on any Judge”.
More recently, on 18 January 2019, in a speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2019 for the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Kota Kinabalu, the President of the Malaysian Bar once again reiterated the Malaysian Bar’s call for an RCI.
Over the past few days, Malaysians have been rocked by media reports of, firstly, shocking new allegations by Justice Hamid Sultan that there are members of the Judiciary who have colluded with persons to defraud the Government; and secondly, the group Lawyers for Liberty stating that it has “collected a range of evidence of interference with subordinate court judges in politically sensitive matters”. All these severe allegations of a total collapse of integrity on the part of certain judges are eroding public confidence in the Judiciary immensely, and perhaps irreparably.
In light of the inconclusive findings of the Judiciary’s internal investigations into the allegations made by Justice Hamid Sultan, due reportedly to the retirement of the judge concerned and other constraints, and the absence of information in respect of any investigation of judicial interference in the appeal in the sedition case of Karpal Singh, the urgency for a thorough investigation by an RCI is greater than ever before. The Malaysian Bar restates our call to the Government to establish the RCI at once, and for the scope of the RCI to cover all the new allegations.
The Malaysian Bar has all along taken a consistently firm and unwavering stand in demanding that the independence of the Judiciary be fervently safeguarded. The proper administration of justice can only rest upon a Judiciary whose independence is absolute and unimpeachable, and upon individual judges whose integrity and impartiality are faultless and unassailable. As the saying goes, even one rotten apple will spoil the entire barrel.
We note the statement issued on 16 February 2019 by the Office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia, which speaks of the Judiciary’s concern over “the grave allegations made against unnamed judges and the Judiciary as an institution”. It is therefore imperative for the Judiciary to give its fullest support for the establishment of the RCI, and to subsequently lend the RCI its fullest cooperation.
As for the ongoing case of Sangeet Kaur Deo v Ketua Hakim Negara Malaysia, the Bar Council is currently considering the proper role for the Malaysian Bar to play in the upcoming legal proceedings. We will, without any doubt, continue to speak up over any compromise — including allegations thereof — within the institution of the Judiciary, without fear or favour. We will never be silent in the face of any unethical or unlawful practices toward or by members of the Judiciary.
16 February 2019