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'CJ's extension turns murkier with omission of JAC'

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The appointments of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin as additional judges to continue in their current positions got murkier with the revelation that the move did not have the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said this in reference to former chief justice Zaki Azmi's defence that the JAC's recommendations were not necessary for the appointments.

"Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and attorney-general Mohamad Apandi Ali should explain whether they fully endorse Zaki’s views that the JAC is an entirely irrelevant and inconsequential body.

"Zaki has added to the murkiness of the circumstances surrounding the unconstitutional extension of Raus as chief justice, especially as it affected the promotion opportunities and prospects of at least eight Federal Court judges, including three women, and most importantly, the denial of the opportunity of Richard Malanjum as the first Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak to be appointed as Chief Justice of Malaysia," Lim said in a statement today.

Zaki in a commentary in the New Straits Times yesterday said the JAC is an "extra-constitutional body".

“It cannot replace or substitute the procedures and requirements of the supreme constitution.

"The supreme constitution in Article 122B(1) on the appointment of judges does not require the prime minister to act on the recommendation of the JAC.

“In any case, the procedures of the JAC Act are not mandatory, but merely directory.

"The prime minister is not required to act on the JAC’s recommendations. The prime minister is not limited to the candidates recommended by the JAC," Zaki had said.

Critics have said the appointment of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges to continue in their existing position was essentially an extension of tenure, which they claim is a violation of the federal constitution.

The constitution requires the Chief Justice and those in other key judiciary positions to retire at age 66 and six months.

Raus was yesterday formally appointed as additional judge and will continue to serve as Chief Justice beyond the age of 66 and six months.

Lim, who is also Gelang Patah MP, said Raus should have rejected the appointment in the interest of the judiciary.

"It is sad and most unfortunate that Raus did not see that his best contribution to the judiciary lies in his declining the unconstitutional extension of his tenure as chief justice.

"A top judicial officer who cherishes unquestioned respect for the rule of law and unblemished standing of the judiciary not only in the eyes of the bench and bar but the Malaysian populace would want to spare the judiciary from the agony of a controversy lasting for the next three years over the constitutionality of the extension of the chief justice of the land," he said.

Lim said all eyes will now be on Zulkefli, whose appointment as an additional judge will commence on Sept 28.

"Will Zulkefli decline the two-year extension of his tenure as Court of Appeal president when his tenure as Court of Appeal president ends on Sept 27?" said Lim.

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