Chief justice: No internal probe now on judicial misconduct claims, due to police probe and interest conflict

Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat speaks to the media at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya January 3, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat speaks to the media at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya January 3, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 3 — The judiciary is currently not investigating February 2019 allegations of judicial interference as there is a separate police investigation and due to conflict of interest, the chief justice said today.

Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat was asked about the status of the judiciary’s internal probe into the allegations made by Court of Appeal judge Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer. Hamid Sultan’s shocking allegations were made in his February 2019 affidavit to support a lawsuit by Sangeet Kaur Deo.

Tengku Maimun said that her predecessor Tan Sri Richard Malanjum had initially started an internal investigation by the judiciary into the allegations of judicial interference and judicial misconduct.

“Before I came on board, Tan Sri Richard had already initiated the internal investigation. It was halted, if I may say so, because of the police investigation.

“The police in fact did come and interview us. So I think the position taken by the top management then was to hold on to the internal investigation because the police are doing the investigations, so that much I can say.

“So we don’t know what’s happening to the police investigation, whether they have put up some report or submitted any paper to the AGC for further action,” the country’s top judge told the media in a meet and greet session hosted at her office here.

Tengku Maimun, who became chief justice in May 2019, also said she had personally informed Sangeet that she could not launch the investigation.

“She did write to me, and I told her that I can’t conduct the investigation or pursue the investigation which was initiated by Tan Sri Richard, because I am in conflict of position.

“I was one of the three judges who sat in Karpal Singh’s case, so I told her I can’t, then I passed a letter — she knew about this — I passed the letter to President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Ahmad (Maarop) because he was also in the panel deciding Karpal Singh’s case,” she said earlier during the same session dubbed Press Day.

“I personally have told Sangeet that I can’t personally because I would be conflicted, I decided on her father’s case so I can’t. The very complaint was in relation to her father’s case, so I can’t get involved in investigations relating to that, she understood that,” she later added.

In July 2019, Sangeet was reported confirming that she had formally written to Tengku Maimun to request for investigations on the allegations and that the chief justice had responded.

Karpal Singh speaks to members of the press during a press conference in Air Itam November 5, 2013. — Picture by K.E. Ooi
Karpal Singh speaks to members of the press during a press conference in Air Itam November 5, 2013. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

Tengku Maimun was the only one of three judges in a Court of Appeal panel to disagree in 2016 that Karpal should be convicted of sedition, while Ahmad who has now retired from the judiciary was also on a Court of Appeal panel which delivered a decision in 2012 in the same Karpal case.

In February 2019, Malanjum who was then the chief justice had said in an affidavit that the internal inquiry was suspended but not discontinued, adding that this was to ensure that no prejudice is caused to the ongoing police investigation and a pending court matter.

Also in February, Hamid Sultan’s lawyer was reported saying that the judge is declining to speak to the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the allegations until a Royal Commission of Inquiry is formed.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad later confirmed the same month that an RCI would be set up to look into the allegations, but had then said that there was no decision yet on the RCI’s terms and conditions and how far back it should look into.

In March 2019, a seven-man panel at the Federal Court unanimously acquitted Karpal of sedition, posthumously clearing his name after finding serious miscarriage of justice in previous court rulings in his case.

Today, Tengku Maimun was also asked about her previous call in May to the public to write in to her and the three other top judges of the Malaysian judiciary regarding allegations of judicial misconduct to enable investigations.

Tengku Maimun said that she has been receiving eight to 10 letters daily instead with requests from the public to reopen cases that had been decided by the court years ago, noting however that there has to be finality in the law and that cases could not be reheard if all avenues of appeal in court had been exhausted.

Tengku Maimun pointed out that she had instead called for tip-offs on allegations of judicial misconduct to allow for probes to be carried out.

“I say if you have some evidence that a particular judge is corrupt, you report to me so that I can make a report to the MACC because we also don’t have expertise to investigate.

“The idea is you tell me instead of you telling the whole world or calling some press conference, you tell me so that I can go and make a proper report to the MACC and a proper investigation can be done so that the judiciary need not be tainted unnecessarily ...You see the idea is this, we cannot be making that kind of wild allegations because it not only taints the judiciary, it taints the country,” she said when explaining her May 2019 invitation to the public to write in.

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