Penang Bar raises concern over impact of KPI on judgments

By Shaila Koshy, TheStar

KUALA LUMPUR: The Penang Bar has joined some of their colleagues in the Johor Bar who are disgruntled over judicial measures for clearing the backlog of cases and improving the administration of justice.

The discontent in Penang, however, is progressing more calmly.

Down south, an extraordinary general meeting last week saw the Johor Bar Committee office bearers walk out over a no-confidence motion against the chairman.

Members continued the meeting and elected a four-man task force to gather feedback on members’ problems as a result of judges being measured by key performance indicators (KPIs).

Up north, the state Bar committee sent a memorandum dated July 27 to Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi and Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria on the tracking system and speedy disposal of cases.

On Sept 1, its chairman Mureli Navaratnam informed members about the memorandum and the executive director sent out a circular on Monday on a forum to be held on Oct 8 to get their feedback because the committee was in continuous dialogue with the top judges and decision-makers.

In the memorandum (, Mureli noted the positive side of the introduction of KPIs.

He said, however, concentrating on speed without sufficient emphasis on the quality of justice would be to move in the wrong direction.

He voiced concerns over the impact of KPIs on the quality of judgments, judges’ mental and physical health and family life and warned that the emphasis on speed gave “an opportunity for incompetent and low-calibre judges” to “make their mark and be touted as role models” although they succeeded only because of the shortcuts they resorted to.

Mureli said judicial discretion has almost completely been overridden by administrative directives and KPIs and there would soon be little growth of common law in Malaysia because judges were not encouraged to or given the time to write reasoned judgments but told to keep them short.

In an interview with The Star last month, Zaki said the judicial leadership had held workshops in Penang, northern Kedah, Seremban, Malacca, Johor Baru and Muar to explain to judges that “figures are only meant as a guideline,” and that “at the end of the day, you must give justice to the parties; that is the most important thing.”