Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why no Federal Court written judgment on Perak

by N.H. Chan

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MAY 19 - Do you know why the Federal Court is not giving a written judgment in the Perak debacle?

The answer can be simply put. It is because Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution is written in unambiguous language which even a child can understand.

As I have said before in an earlier article that the words, “The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court”, mean what they say.

Nothing can be plainer than that. No one in his right senses would try to interpret the obvious meaning of the words in Article 72, unless he wants to say the words mean something else. But the Federal Court was not prepared to do that. And the reason is because they do not want to be known as Humpty Dumpty judges.

Remember Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carrol’s, “Through the looking Glass?”:

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

So the judges of the Federal Court did the unthinkable. They blatantly refused to apply the constitutional provision as it stands. They ignored it altogether.

But by so doing they have committed the cardinal sin of not administering justice according to law. It is the duty of every judge, indeed it is his only function, to administer justice according to law. And the law, in this context, is Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the land.

Said Lord Denning, What Next in the Law, p 319:

“Parliament is supreme. Every law enacted by Parliament must be obeyed to the letter. No matter how unreasonable or unjust it may be, nevertheless, the judges have no option. They must apply the statute as it stands.”

Since the judges of the Federal Court, especially the infamous five, have refused to apply Article 72 (1) as it stands, they have, as a result, impaled themselves on the horns of their own dilemma.

They have, so to speak, placed themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either way their position is untenable. By refusing to apply Article 72(1) of the Federal Constitution as it stands they would be guilty of a misuse of power.

As put by Lord Denning, ibid, p 380:

“May not the judges themselves sometimes abuse or misuse their power? It is their duty to administer and apply the law of the land. If they should divert it or depart from it and do so knowingly, they themselves would be guilty of a misuse of power.

And, in this country, this could be a ground for the judges to be removed from office. This is what section 2 of the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994 says:

2. (1) This Code of Ethics shall apply throughout the period of his service.

(2) The breach of any provision of this Code of Ethics may constitute a ground for the removal of a judge from office.

And section 3 (1)(d) says:

3. (1) A judge shall not -

(d) conduct himself dishonestly or in such a manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto;

Judging by the unfair treatment of Nizar in his encounter with the Federal Court, public opinion has no doubt that the judges of the Federal Court has brought discredit to the Judiciary. The words of section 3(1)(d) are so clear and easy to understand that we do not need any court of law to explain it to us ordinary folk. We know what the words mean.

By not administering and applying the law, which in this case is the supreme law, of the land as it stands the errant judges have brought discredit to the judiciary – a ground for their removal from office.

And if the Government of the day failed to listen to the voice of the people then they have placed themselves in jeopardy of losing the next general election or any by-election or any State election in the future.

And finally, what about Ramly JCA the judge who had acted with indecent haste when he granted a stay to Zambry of the well-considered judgment of Abdul Aziz J.

Zambry was appealing against the High Court judge’s declaratory order in favour of Nizar. Like the judges of the Federal Court, he has not given any reason for his decision.

Ramly JCA granted the stay of the declaration which Nizar had obtained against Zambry. The judge was unable to explain why he granted the stay. As any lawyer will tell you it is unusual to stay a declaratory order. If such a stay is to be granted, there are legal arguments to be considered from both sides and the judge will have to say why he prefers the argument of one side as against the other.

The people’s perception of him as an unfair judge is the same as that of the errant judges of the Federal Court. Ramly JCA is in no better position than his seniors in the Federal Court.

* N H Chan is a retired judge who last sat in the Court of Appeals.

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