Two Of Malaysia's Top Judges Are Stepping Down

Last year, their appointments were challenged in the Federal Court for being "unconstitutional."

Malaysia's two most senior judges, Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, will be stepping down from their posts on 31 July

Image via Bernama

According to a statement issued by the chief registrar's office of the federal court, both men tendered their resignations in a letter to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on 7 June.

"His Majesty the King had given his assent to their resignation on 8 June," the statement read, according to Channel NewsAsia.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's decision to appoint the two men last year was met with controversy as many argued that their appointments were "unconstitutional"

Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif (left) with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Image via Prime Minister's Office

Malaysia's legal fraternity argued that since both Raus and Zulkefli had exceeded the mandatory retirement age of 66 years and six months, neither could take on the posts given to them by the former prime minister.

The judges were subject to a legal challenge by the Malaysian Bar and AAS in a suit filed last October, the decision of which has since been deferred by the Federal Court.

Several lawyers are celebrating the news of the judges' resignations, which they claim signals a return to a "free and fair judiciary"

Image via Berita Daily

"This is truly wonderful news for Malaysia," Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen told The Malaysian Insight.

"Of course Raus' and Zulkefli's unconstitutional reappointments have only exacerbated public confidence in the judiciary, and their resignation can only bode well for the country," he said, adding that, "Judges must be appointed and promoted based on seniority and merit, not on irrelevant considerations or political connections."

Image via Malay Mail

Malaysian Bar human rights committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo, who also welcomed the development, said that, "The Malaysian Bar had on several occasions called upon the chief justice and the president of the court of appeal to do the honourable thing and to step down and I am glad that they have finally heeded the call of the Malaysian Bar."

Khoo stressed the importance of a decision from the Federal Court on the 2017 challenge against both judges. "It is a crucial litmus test for the independence of the judiciary in the new Malaysia," he said.

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