Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New judicial appointments get thumbs up from Bar

Datuk Gopal Sri Ram taking his oath of office before Chief Justice Tan Sri Zaki Azmi at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya this morning.

– Picture by Choo Choy May

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani and Edward Cheah

PUTRAJAYA, April 15, 2009 (malaysianinsider) – Three new judges were elevated to the Federal Court today with another five appointed to the Court of Appeal.

The appointments are seen as a significant injection of new blood which earned praise even from the Bar Council as signalling reform of the judiciary.

Datuk Gopal Sri Ram, Datuk Wira Ghazali Mohd Yusof and Datuk James Foong took their oath of office before Chief Justice Tan Sri Zaki Azmi in a ceremony at the Palace of Justice this morning.

The three seats became vacant after the retirement of Chief Justices Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, and judge Datuk Az-mel Ma'amor.

All three Federal Court and five Court of Appeal judges received their letters of appointment from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin at Istana Negara here earlier.

“The expectations of the citizens and our clients are very high. They want speedy and efficient disposals of the cases. I know we have been working hard, shorthanded at all levels. It means that with the shortage of judges, even working at full speed, we are unable to overtake the number of appeals filed,” said Zaki.

With the appointments of the three judges, the Federal Court now has the maximum 12-member bench.

The five new High Court judges who took their oath of office before Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sheriff were Datuk Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus, 59, Datuk Kang Hwee Gee, 64, Datuk Jeffrey Tan, 59, Datuk Azhar Maah, 63, and Datuk Ramly Ali, 56.

The Court of Appeal will now have 22 high court judges.

“You should be proud that you have been chosen to fill in the vacancies because the choices are made on merits. This is necessarily so if the intention is to improve the respect given to the courts. You will, I am sure, continue to meet the highest standard expected to be speedy but fair,” Zaki Azmi told the new judges.

Bar Council President Ragunath Kesavan told reporters that the new appointments signal a strong intent to reform the judiciary.

“I am quite happy with the appointments and promotions, I think the issue of merits have been taken into consideration. We are very pleased that we have been consulted as well by the chief justice and we have given our input.

“With the good start to the reform of the judiciary, there is recognition of merit in the promotion of the court of appeal and federal court judges,” Ragunath said.

He also commended Zaki for inviting senior members of the Bar to serve in the judiciary and warm the relationship that the two bodies are enjoying.

“I must say this that in this last one year ... the bench and bar, we have had more meetings than the last 10 years so in terms of consultation, we have been having many consultations.

“We are very happy with the response, of course there are some areas in which we want more improvements but the reform of the judiciary is a work in progress,” Ragunath said.

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