The Malaysian Bar is perturbed by the statements made by Member of Parliament for Bagan Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam pertaining to recent decisions meted out by the courts.
Zahid commented on the decision of the Johor Bahru Magistrates’ Court in acquitting and discharging sales promoter Sam Ke Ting, who had been charged with reckless driving in 2017, which resulted in the death of eight teenage cyclists. His reckless statement can cause the public to feel that the magistrate had taken into consideration matters which ought not to have been taken when deciding the matter.
Meanwhile, Lokman – in reference to the High Court’s decision to call for Najib Razak’s defence in respect of the SRC trial – alleged that there was political interference in the nation’s judicial system.
The criminal justice system is comprised of various stages, including the arrest, remand and charging of an accused person. Once sufficient evidence has been gathered and the trial begins in court, it is for the prosecution to establish a prima facie case. If this has been achieved, it is for the defence to then decide on whether they wish to defend the case or not.
Such cases are first heard in a court of first instance, before a single judge, and usually involve the calling of witnesses. Such cases – unless the law provides otherwise – are appealable twice, either up to the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court, depending on the court of first instance.
Both the cases mentioned above are very much at the infant stages of the criminal trial process, and such serious allegations and aspersions cast on the judiciary go beyond fair criticism of the decisions and are devoid of merits. Such statements undermine public confidence in the judiciary and offend the dignity, integrity and impartiality of the courts. Both these cases still have the potential to be further ventilated and are wholly contingent on the parties involved to see them through.
The Malaysian Bar therefore views such sweeping statements as uncouth and contemptuous. Such premature, venomous and reckless attacks on the courts should not have been made and must be avoided at all times.
Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar.
This piece, written on 14 November 2019, is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.