Regional law association says Najib cannot rely on Federal Court’s dissenting judgment in further review bids

(MMO) – A regional law association representing 33 legal bodies said today the Federal Court’s dissenting judgment relied on by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in support of an ongoing royal pardon application has no legal grounds for a retrial or a further review of a conviction.

The Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (Lawasia) said it has written to both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun that the reliance of the dissenting judgment may justify a future attempt to review an already decided review application or even a re-litigation or retrial of a matter in its entirety which is entirely incorrect.

“Whilst dissenting judgments are entitled to respect and have a role to play in the legal process, dissenting judgment does not give grounds for a retrial or a right to a ‘further’ review under the inherent powers of the Federal Court under r 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995.

“The majority judgment of a final Court of Appeal such as the Federal Court is the binding decision of the Federal Court. The rule of law mandates that the majority decision must be given effect to and complied with by all persons who are subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Court,” its president Melissa Pang said in a statement.

Lawasia said the stance taken by the association is apolitical, as it is merely a fundamental law statement that forms a key part of the rule of law in Malaysia where the majority judgment is final and is to be treated as such, as to the correctness and legal validity of Najib’s convictions.

“It is important that the Malaysian government respect the judgment of the Federal Court and explain to the public the effect of the Federal Court judgment so that there is no misinformation about the result of the proceedings.

“The rule of law exists to protect the public and to ensure that all persons are treated equally,” she said.

In her letter, Pang explained that a dissenting judgment is merely an expression of a disagreement or difference of judicial opinion that does not become a part of case law or have any binding precedential value.

“Indeed, dissenting judgments are a healthy feature of a well-functioning legal system that upholds the rule of law.

“They can instigate robust debate on important issues as the subject of the judgment. That should not be inhibited or stymied in a democracy,” she wrote.

She added that any action that seeks to either misrepresent the dissenting judgment as prevailing over the majority judgment or confuse the public about the finality of the majority judgment will undermine public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice in Malaysia.

In the wake of a probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against trial judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, Pang also said the investigation by the MACC on matters concerning judicial ethics is an overreach and amounts to judicial interference that undermined public confidence in the judicial system.

Pang’s letter therefore urged the federal government to take steps against government agencies to refrain them from any actions that may undermine the judiciary’s independence and compromise public confidence in the judiciary.