Monday, July 1, 2013

Ex-judge slams Bar Council for “retire forever” call

Retired judges can appear in court in exceptional cases if the Bar is weak, said former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Seri Ram in a stinging rebuttal to the Bar Council.

Sri Ram said retired judges who had experience and expertise could contribute to the development of the law adding that this was more glaring when the Bar is weak and the Bench need assistance.

He was commenting on a statement issued by the Bar Council which stated that former judges appearing in court as counsel could lead to embarrassing situations when some of them may have to cite from their own judgments.

Council president Christopher Leong had said that judicial procedures should be amended to stop ex-judges from becoming counsel.

Sri Ram, however, said there may be public interest cases where the input of retired judges (who appear for their clients) would be invaluable.

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The ex-judge who is currently a legal consultant said the necessity for retired judges to appear was to help move the "law forward, especially in constitutional or very important commercial cases".

He said in countries like The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the Bar and the Bench were "intellectually very strong".

"In those countries, practitioners who had served on the bench need not appear as counsel," he told The Malaysian Insider.

However, Sri Ram was open to the suggestion that retired judges should refrain from representing clients regularly in mundane cases, especially before benches whom they had sat with previously.

"It is definitely not desirable for them to appear before a such a bench," he said.

He said there may be some who found it surprising but the Bar Council did not make any adverse comment when a former lord president and former High Court judges were "regulars" in courts.

Sri Ram is likely to appear for PAS candidates to challenge an electoral fraud case petition for the Pasir Panjang state seat in Perak.

He explained that his name as counsel must appear under the election petition rules.

"This gives me the option whether to appear in person to argue the petition for my client," he said.

He said failure to register his name would result in him losing the opportunity to come to court if the need arose.

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