Undermining public confidence in the administration of justice

Puthan Perumal

Modified 1 May 2019, 5:40 am

LETTER | In the recent Federal Court Civil Application 08(i)-394-07/2018(W) judgment dated23.04.2019 the Federal Court said: 

"Therefore it is our finding that there has been no rational or cogent basis given for the grave allegations levelled against the Federal Court and thereby the Judiciary. In our view, an objective assessment is that these statements are calculated to undermine the public confidence in the administration of justice, which amounts to scandalising contempt."

It is humbly submitted that for there to be any sort of undermining or eroding of the public's confidence in the administration of justice, the prerequisite must necessarily be the presence of the public’s confidence itself.

It is only with the existence of this confidence by the public, can there be an assessment as to whether any statements made by any person or persons had undermined it.

The confidence of the public in the administration of justice is not something that is built overnight, and on the same note, it is also something that can be eroded by one or two statements or articles.

Ultimately, public confidence in the judiciary is either gained or lost. Naturally one can only gain confidence in something over a period of time based on prior conduct and actions. Likewise, that is also how it is lost.

In other words, it is the perception of the public over time on the administration of justice that leads one to reach the conclusion of whether or not he or she has confidence in it. It is not something that can be forced down on people neither can it be so easily taken away.

Therefore, inevitably the decisions of the courts, especially in public interest matters, definitely do play a role in deciding whether one has confidence in the administration of justice or not.

If, for example over the past twenty years or so, the public had no confidence with the administration of justice, and I am saying "if", we cannot expect people to suddenly have it now just because there is a change in the government. That is not how it works.

It would perhaps take another twenty years just to build back the confidence in people. And again, the decisions by the courts in public interest matters play a role. Fair and reasoned judgments definitely will help build this confidence.

Like it or not, private litigated cases, in my humble opinion, do not play that big a role as compared to public litigated matters on the scale of confidence in the administration of justice. This is simply because the former does not attract much attention in the media as opposed to the latter.

In the bigger scheme of things, one should also consider the "atmosphere in the room" when viewing a case for contempt of scandalising the judiciary.

Perhaps one may not be that articulate in voicing his or her opinion on the level of confidence in the administration of justice but it is their opinion nevertheless and it is humbly submitted that the appropriate authorities should not be so unforgiving but rather correct them where necessary.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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