Raus: One of the shortest-serving CJs, with a controversial tenure

  • Jun 13, 2018
  • Views 121

Image Description

Md Raus Sharif is set to become among the shortest-serving chief justices in Malaysian history but his brief tenure has been a controversial one as well.

Rising to the top post on April 4, 2017, Raus was already near the mandatory retirement age of 66 years and six months.

This would have only seen him in the position for 122 days, making him the shortest serving chief justice.

However, the previous BN government, in a controversial manoeuvre, sought to extend Md Raus' tenure beyond the constitutionally allowed age limit.

The Prime Minister's Office claimed Raus' immediate predecessor Arifin Zakaria had recommended him as an "additional judge". Raus’ tenure would, therefore, commence from Aug 4, 2017, and last for three years.

This was despite Arifin retiring on March 31, 2017. The same method was also used to extend Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin's tenure as Court of Appeal president beyond the constitutional age limit.

According to Article 122(1) of the Federal Constitution, the chief justice can advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint an additional judge to the Federal Court. Unlike the chief justice or Court of Appeal president, the additional judge is not constrained by the age limit.

The move even irked former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad, who said the "additional judge" route was not meant to be a backdoor method to bypass the constitutional age limit imposed on the chief justice and Court of Appeal president.

The appointments sparked a flurry of lawsuits, including by the Malaysian Bar, challenging the constitutionality of the move.

It also put the judiciary in an awkward position as Raus' colleagues in the Federal Court would have to decide on the constitutionality of his position.

Raus and Zulkefli finally decided to relinquish their positions following the installation of the new government on May 9.

Equally controversial exit

But like their extensions, the planned exits were also plagued by controversy.

The duo had reportedly met with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Council of Eminent Persons member Daim Zainuddin on separate occasions, and both told them to resign.

The legal fraternity, including former federal court judge Gopal Sri Ram, had criticised the meeting as inappropriate, declaring that judges should not call on the members of the executive.

The chief registrar of the Federal Court said Raus and Zulkefli had on May 15 met with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to convey their intention to resign.

The registrar said they tendered their resignations to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on June 7 and the monarch had accepted their resignations.

It added that the resignations would take effect on July 31.

This would put Raus' tenure at 484 days, making him the third shortest-serving chief justice of the 14 persons who filled the position, previously referred to as the Lord President.

Abdul Hamid Mohamad served for 352 days and retired after hitting the constitutional retirement age while Sultan Azlan Shah Sultan Yussuf Izzuddin Shah resigned after 447 days as chief justice to take up the throne in Perak.