Chief justice condemns attempts to intimidate judiciary by criticising unpopular decisions

PUTRAJAYA, 9 January — Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat today criticized “mischievous” dissenters who criticize certain judgments simply because they disagree with them.

She stated that constructive criticism is always appreciated, but attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary are not.

“Over the past year, it has become increasingly evident that attempts have been made to intimidate judges who preside over cases involving public interest. The Rule of Law and the independence of the judiciary are directly violated by these attempts. They are deserving of condemnation, and numerous individuals have voiced their strong opposition to them.

She stated in her speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2023 in this location, “It is very mischievous for anyone to try to tarnish the image of the Courts and bring it into disrepute through unfair, biased, and often times unenlightened criticism simply because they happen to not like particular decisions.”

Malaysia’s highest judge cited the criminal justice system as an illustration, noting that courts will continue to determine criminal liability based on applicable law and the strength of evidence presented in court.

“Those whose guilt can be established will be found guilty, while those whose innocence cannot be established will be found not guilty. The punishments that are due to them for their crimes will be exacted on those who are found guilty.

She stated, “This is our job as judges, and we are determined to discharge our duty regardless of any threats made to deter us from it.”

She expressed optimism that the principles of deciding cases “without fear or favor, without ill-will or motive, without any external or internal pressure, and without regard to personalities” will be adhered to by all judges and that judicial independence will not be compromised.

Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, the trial judge who heard and convicted former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the case of the misappropriation of RM42 million of the funds of government-owned SRC International Sdn Bhd, has been the target of attacks since last year. These attacks came from a variety of sources, including politicians and blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin.

In the same speech, Tengku Maimun said that judges who hear cases with clear political undertones frequently face a lot of intense media scrutiny, especially on social media. He also said that members of political parties and the general public “almost always criticize” such court decisions.

She stated that judges should be aware of public opinion but are not bound by it. She acknowledged that every citizen has the constitutional right to criticize the judiciary and test the correctness of its court decisions through due process.

“Healthy attention and constructive comments toward the judiciary and its work are always to be welcomed because they help us reflect on our work, improve to the best of our abilities, and also remind us of how important it is to uphold judicial independence in order to maintain the Rule of Law.” She went on to say that such criticisms should not cause “discord” between lawyers, the judiciary, any political alliance, or the general public; rather, they should bolster the determination to uphold judicial independence and the rule of law.

The chief justice stated that comments that are based on political stances or improper considerations rather than objective facts, rational arguments, or legal reasoning would be of no value to upholding judicial independence and the rule of law.

She urged judges to write judgments that are simple, clear, and easy for the public to understand because these judgments would have a long-lasting effect on how Malaysia’s law is made.

She stated that judges should not make decisions based on popularity but rather on the law.

She advised the public to read court judgments in their entirety or in their entirety before forming an opinion and slandering the judiciary because these judgments are accessible to the public online.

Later, at a press conference, when asked about criticisms of the judiciary from political parties, Tengku Maimun said that certain personalities’ court cases would get more attention from the public.

“In this situation, I noticed that when certain personalities are involved, comments are made about the judiciary that are quite exaggerated, biased, and political in nature; “It is more to political sentiments than comments that are constructive, which can be said to be an intellectual discourse to discuss legal issues,” she stated.

In the midst of the extraordinary levels of criticism leveled at the judiciary regarding court rulings, the chief justice also expressed his gratitude to those who had offered support.

“It is true that in every court decision, there will be satisfied and dissatisfied parties. This is typical. As is well known, I have also received death threats — whether they are serious or not is another matter,” she stated. “What is extraordinary in cases involving certain personalities is that the support or criticism is quite extraordinary.”

“However, at the same time, we observe such extraordinary support for the judiciary. Here, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the support of society as a whole, which recognizes that, in each decision we make, we do not have any particular agenda; the law is our agenda.” “If we find that this law requires such a decision in accordance with the provisions of the law that are already in place, then that is how our decision is,” she said, urging the general public to investigate the country’s legal system before making any remarks.

She had also thanked the Malaysian Bar earlier in her speech: It is common knowledge that during the hearing of some high-profile cases last year, the judiciary was the target of vicious attacks. We are still thankful, especially to the Bar, for making logical arguments in favor of the Judiciary. We anticipate your continued cooperation and support.”

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