NGO Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has claimed that judges and court staff had to attend a "special discussion" on the BN government's 2050 National Transformation (TN50) plan prior to the 14th general election.
This was in addition to the National Civics Bureau (BTN) courses they were made to attend which LFL had also previously highlighted.
This comes as the Chief Registrar's Office of the Federal Court (PKPMP) claimed that the courses, organised in collaboration with the BTN and held in the months prior to the 14th general election, were part of planned modules to build "team spirit" and not meant to indoctrinate court staff, including judges.
LFL advisor N Surendran took PKPMP to task for its response, stating that the lawyers group also did not buy into the claim that the timing of the courses before the general election was merely a "coincidence".
"We are now also able to reveal that on Feb 27, 2018, just weeks prior to the three BTN courses, the Chief Registrar's Office also ordered judges, deputy registrars and judicial officers to attend a 'special discussion' on (former prime minister) Najib Abdul Razak's TN50 programme. Attendance was compulsory.
"The TN50 has been widely criticised as a political gimmick of Najib and BN, it is thus an overtly political activity. It also has nothing whatsoever to do with enhancing judicial or professional skills.
"Why did the Judicial Capacity Training Division of the Chief Registrar's Office organise such a programme?" Surendran asked in a statement today.
However, LFL did not elaborate on the nature of the programme.
In a circular dated Feb 23, 2018, which was purportedly issued by PKPMP, court staff were invited to a dialogue session with the chief registrar in conjunction with the TN50.
The circular, sighted by Malaysiakini, stated that the purpose of the session was to "obtain input and opinions towards developing the country's direction towards 2050."
However, Malaysiakini has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the circular. It has contacted PKPMP regarding this latest claim and is awaiting a response.
The TN50 was launched by the Najib government in January last year to chart the nation’s direction towards the year 2050, as a follow-up to Vision 2020.
‘Flagrant’ breach of separation of powers
Meanwhile, Surendran stated that PKPMP’s claim that it had collaborated with the controversial BTN to save costs was "improbable and perplexing", pointing out that it was a "flagrant" breach of the doctrine of separation of powers to force judges to attend courses organised by a unit of the executive, such as the BTN.
He asked: "Is it logical to undermine the doctrine of separation of powers simply in order to 'save costs'?"
Such responses by the court, he said, only served to raise more questions instead of producing satisfactory answers.
LFL called on the chief registrar to release the full contents and audio recording of the BTN programmes to back up the claim that the courses were not political in nature.
It also reiterated its call for an independent panel to investigate the matter.
The BTN, which is under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department, has long courted controversy, with allegations that it was being used by the previous BN regime to brainwash civil servants with government propaganda.
Last week, LFL had claimed that Sessions Court judges were made to attend a BTN course in March, saying such a move constituted a threat to the judiciary.
It followed this claim a few days later with allegations that the staff of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, as well as those of the Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam courts, were also made to attend a BTN course, just a week after the Sessions Court judges attended theirs.
Harapan had in its election manifesto stated that it would abolish the BTN.
However, it was reported earlier last month that the BTN would be retained under the Prime Minister's Department.