Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Bar Council’s wavering stand


Seven months ago, the Bar Council president, Christopher Leong, said that a resolution had been passed to ask the government to prohibit retired judges from litigating in court.

“It’s understandable that a person represented by a lawyer will feel that he is at a disadvantage if the adverse party is represented by a retired judge. It is not the question of whether there’s actually bias or advantage. 

The point is, it affects public confidence and that outweighs their ability to appear in court,” said Leong. “This amendment doesn’t stop them from practising, they can still do conveyance and consultation, just not go to court.”

Leong cited examples of Singapore, Sri Lanka and India, which prohibits retired judges from litigating in court. Australia’s Victoria state even punishes those breaking the rule by forfeiting their judicial pension. The Bar Council has vowed to take all reasonable steps to educate the public on the reasons for the proposed amendment to the law.

Yesterday, Syahredzan Johanin, a Bar Council member, said there is nothing wrong for retired Federal Court judge, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, acting as Anwar Ibrahim’s lead counsel in his sodomy conviction appeal. How would that reconcile with the resolution passed by the Bar Council and would they make a special exception for Gopal Sri Ram?

Syahredzan explained that the Bar Council resolution was only a proposal and not legally binding. Recently the Bar Council also passed a resolution asking the government to abolish the Sedition Act. Can we treat that resolution the same way we are being asked to treat the resolution regarding retired judges?

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