Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin have tendered their resignations. Both men tendered their resignations in a letter to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong dated June 7, according to a press statement issued today by the Office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court. Raus and Zulkefli resignations which will take effect on July 31.
“The justices have informed the prime minister that their resignations can only take effect at a date that is deemed reasonable to ensure all their duties are completed,” explained the chief registrar. The palace had accepted the resignations on June 8 and corresponded to the judges of the decision on Monday. The statement said Raus and Zulkefli had met the prime minister on May 15 to convey their intention to resign. THE resignations of Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin have been welcomed by lawyers who had claimed their appointments were unconstitutional. “This is truly wonderful news for Malaysia as the judiciary has not been free and fair for far too long,” Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen told The Malaysian Insight. “Of course Raus’ and Zulkefli’s unconstitutional reappointments have only exacerbated public confidence in the judiciary, and their resignation can only bode well for the country,” he said.
In July 2017, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the extension of the terms of Raus and Zulkefli for a period of three and two years respectively. Last December, the Bar Council had sought several declarations from the Federal Court to invalidate Raus and Zulkefli’s extension of service, initiated under the Najib Abdul Razak administration. The extension of service, which courted much controversy, came ahead of their mandatory retirement last year. Top judges are required to retire after attaining the age of 66 and six months. However, Article 122(1A) of the Federal Constitution provides for additional judges, which does not have an age limit. Previously, various quarters including former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram and the Malaysian Bar, questioned the appointments. Hamid opined that Article 122(1A) cannot be a backdoor to extend the tenure of the chief justice. Several quarters, including Mahathir, the Bar Council and Amanah had challenged the appointments in court.
Gurdial Singh Nijar, former law professor at Universiti Malaya, said the appointment of the two judges had tarnished their otherwise good standing, as well as the public’s perception towards the judiciary. “The writing was on the wall that the appointment was unconstitutional right from the outset. “ “It is for me a matter of great personal regret bordering on sadness that these two top judges, who have ruled on so many constitutional cases in their judicial career, did not see this as such. “ “As a result it has fuelled all kinds of perception and somewhat tarnished not only their otherwise good standing, but as well the institution of the judiciary.” Malaysian Bar human rights committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo said the “development is to be welcomed.” “The Malaysian Bar had on several occasions called upon the chief justice and the president of the court of appeal to do the honourable thing and to step down, and I am glad that they have finally heeded the call of the Malaysian Bar,” he said.
Khoo however, said a Federal Court decision in the constitutional challenge by the Malaysian Bar and the AAS is still pending and should be delivered “as soon as possible.” The Federal Court, which heard the challenge on March 14, had deferred its decision.