Judges under assets scrutiny

Judiciary to work with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in declaration of wealth

(The Malay Mail) – Judges may have to declare their assets soon to ensure greater transparency and integrity in the judiciary.

Chief Justice (CJ) Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria said the judiciary would work with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the matter.

“One thing I’m thinking of is to have a declaration of our assets, for all judges to declare their assets,” he said at the opening of a four-day judges conference here.

Once the declaration was made, the next course of action was up to the MACC.

“I’m sure all of you have nothing to fear, so we have to work together with MACC on this matter,” he said.

Arifin’s statement elicited immediate response from the Bar Council, which viewed the development positively.

Its president, Lim Chee Wee, said the authorities should even consider making the judges’ assets public, which could improve public confidence in the judiciary.

Former chief justice Tun Zaki Azmi also commented on the development, saying he did not consider Arifin’s comments to be a criticism of the state of the judiciary, but a preventive measure to make the country more conscious of the judiciary.

Arifin also reminded judges to maintain judiciary independence and not put up with any interference in reaching their verdicts, be it from the executive or their spouses.

“But there are other interferences, one of them may be your spouse. So make sure there’re no discussions, that’s the biggest interference which comes quietly in the middle of the night,” he said to laughter from the audience.

On a serious note, he said judges must be truly independent from all interferences, including from friends and other judges. As for judgments, he called on them to come up with sound judgments as they had been given ample time and guidelines.

He said the judiciary would take serious action if judges did not perform to expected levels.

Arifin also said the appointment and promotion of judges and judicial commissioners through the Judicial Appointments Commission was not an easy task as the panel had to look into various factors, including judgments.

So far, the panel had confirmed the satisfactory performance of some judges but as for the rest, they had to work hard, he said.

On his announcement at the opening of the Legal Year 2012 yesterday that all Federal Court criminal and civil appeals were to be heard by a five-man quorum effective this month, Arifin said five was a better figure which would allow for good rationale to be applied in the judgment.

At present, Federal Court appeals were heard by a three-man panel.

However, he said the court had the discretion to decide on a five-man or nine-man panel to hear selected appeals, particularly when it involved complex constitutional issues.