Action can be taken for insulting court, CJ warns critics

(The Star) – The judiciary does not mind criticisms against it but will not tolerate any insults or arguments that are not based on facts, said Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria.

“If they (the critics) go overboard we can institute contempt charges against them,” he said, adding that unlike the executive and the legislature, the judiciary cannot react to criticisms at its whims and fancies but only through sound judgment.

“If any party goes overboard by claiming that judges are on the take or that we make lousy judgments without basis, action can be taken against them for insulting the court,” Ariffin said after opening the 46th Judges Conference here yesterday.

He said it was important for the judiciary to counter negative perceptions against it and the event served as a platform to discuss the issue as well as to exchange thoughts and reminders that judges should not be mixing with business people.

“Last week, international commerce and industry members met me and said they were not only satisfied with the quality judgments but also in the independence of the judiciary and its efficiency in disposing of commercial cases,” he said.

Ariffin explained that commercial cases filed at the High Court would be disposed of in six months, but it could be extended up to nine months if there was an appeal and up to 12 months if the case went to the Federal courts.

In comparison, the whole process takes at least 18 months in Singapore, he said.

Ariffin said reforms to the judiciary started during the tenure of former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, who said that the judiciary does not bow down to the executive nor take political sides when delivering judgments.

Zaki said verdicts of past cases, like those involving Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwr Ibrahim and Felda settlers, were proof that the judiciary was independent and placed the law as priority.