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No silence, we've always called for RCI - Bar on judicial 'interference'

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The Malaysian Bar has reiterated its calls for a royal commission of inquiry into the recent explosive allegations of judicial interference, stating that the urgency is "greater than ever before."

Bar president George Varughese said this when dismissing the assertion by lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo that it had remained silent over Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer's affidavit in her case against the chief justice.

In his filing, the Court of Appeal judge claimed that certain members of the judiciary were aiding private parties to defraud the government.

In a statement today, Varughese said the Bar has been "unwavering" in pushing for the integrity of the judiciary to be safeguarded.

"We categorically refute her (Sangeet's) unfounded assertion that the Bar has remained silent on the allegations of judicial interference that were made by Hamid, a judge of the Court of Appeal.

"On Aug 20, 2018, soon after Hamid's (photo) initial revelation that he had been 'severely reprimanded' by a 'top judge for his dissenting judgment in the M Indira Gandhi case at the Court of Appeal, and that he was subsequently not assigned or empanelled to hear cases relating to the Federal Constitution and public interest matters, the Bar issued a press statement.

"In that statement, we called 'for the immediate setting up of an RCI to investigate these serious assertions of judicial misconduct,' as well as recommended holistic reforms to improve and strengthen the judiciary," he said.

Varughese also claimed the Bar made the same call for an RCI in a statement issued in November, and in a January 2019 speech.

'Irreparable' damage

Allegations against the integrity of certain judges, said the Bar president, were eroding public confidence in the judiciary "immensely, and perhaps irreparably." 

"In light of the inconclusive findings of the judiciary’s internal investigations into the allegations made by Hamid, due reportedly to the retirement of the judge concerned and other constraints, and the absence of information in respect of any investigation of judicial interference in the appeal in the sedition case of Karpal Singh, the urgency for a thorough investigation by an RCI is greater than ever before.

"The Bar restates our call to the government to establish the RCI at once, and for the scope of the RCI to cover all the new allegations."

On the matter of Sangeet's ongoing case against chief justice Richard Malanjum, he said the Bar is considering its role in the upcoming legal proceedings.

"We will, without any doubt, continue to speak up over any compromise – including allegations thereof – within the institution of the judiciary, without fear or favour. 

"We will never be silent in the face of any unethical or unlawful practices toward or by members of the judiciary."

Hamid filed the "explosive" 63-page affidavit on Thursday, in support of Sangeet's suit against the chief justice for failing to defend the integrity of the judiciary over two alleged incidents of interference.

This includes the sedition appeal of her late father, former DAP chairperson Karpal Singh, as well as the unilateral conversion of Indira Gandhi's children.

Sangeet is seeking an RCI on the matter and has urged the chief justice and the government to address the claims made in Hamid's affidavit.

"The issues plaguing the Malaysian judiciary, which have long been wilfully ignored, are now public. 

"Stakeholders, especially the Pakatan Harapan government, must not renege on their duty to address the crisis," she said on Friday.

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