Thursday 01 Jun 2023
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PUTRAJAYA (Jan 10): Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (CJ) said the judiciary would embark on several reforms in a bid to improve the people's access to seek justice through the courts.

Justice Tengku Maimun said besides forming a proper judicial academy, it would also introduce an e-bail system to facilitate people to post bail online, extending the e-review court system throughout the country in a bid to reduce the need for lawyers to go to court for case management, as it can be done through video-conferencing.

Besides this, the CJ said the judiciary would help speed up cases by reducing the number of interlocutory matters, in a bid to speed up the case and hearing.

She also said a High Court would also be set up in Sungai Petani and new Sessions Courts in Besut, Terengganu and in Langkawi.

She said this at the launch of the Official Legal Year event here today.

Among those present at the event were Parliament Speaker Tan Sri Mohammad Ariff Md Yusof, Court of Appeal president Datuk Rohana Yusof, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah, Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Deputy de-facto Law Minister Mohd Hanipa Maidin, Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, and Bar Council president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor.

On the judicial academy, the CJ said judiciary training has always been done on an ad-hoc basis as there was no academy for the judiciary. Having an academy will enable judiciary training be done in a structured manner, she said.

To facilitate the establishment of the academy, a Bill is being drafted.

“By establishing a specially structured judicial academy, not only do we hope to increase capacity building of judges by broadening the scope and standard of judicial education, [we also want] to bolster the judicial mind-set that judges serve, above everything else, the rule of law.

“Therefore, the most important but intangible benefit of formalising the judicial academy structure through legislation is to enhance public awareness that continuing judicial education and capacity building is an inherent facet of the judicial function, including bolstering the mindset of judges.”

On the e-bail system, Justice Tengku Maimun said the system would help facilitate families in posting bail, especially in States like Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Johor where banks close on Sunday.

She also stressed that the court process on bail remains unchanged, as the e-bail system is only to enable the bailor in making bail payments online, rather than having to physically go to a bank to do so.

“This is particularly important in smaller and more remote stations where a bailor may have to travel long distances to access his bank account for the provision of a bail bond within a limited time,” she said, adding the system will be in place this year in Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam and Seremban first.

The judiciary is also going to amend the Rules of Court 2012 to cut down on interlocutory applications that may further delay the justice system and hamper access to justice, the CJ said.

Pointing to the High Court, she said many cases there are delayed due to the snowballing of interlocutory applications that has clogged up the judiciary.

“Applications for summary judgment and striking out are one such example. If the application is dismissed, there appears to be no prejudice to the applicant as the case will proceed on the merits. The proposal to limit appeals in this respect is to avoid delays in the full trial of the action.

"Although at the discussion stage, there was significant resistance from both the Bar and AG Chambers (Attorney General's Chambers) to the introduction of this new mechanism. The proposal has already been approved at the Rules Committee stage and it only remains to be formalised,” she said, adding stakeholders will continuously be consulted.

The judiciary also no longer requires lawyers and the AG Chambers to make their appeals submissions on paper.

“In the past, for cases from Sabah and Sarawak on appeal, the physical bundles of documents had to be transported to Putrajaya. If the appeal was being heard in Kota Kinabalu or Kuching, the bundles would be brought there. These [transportation] require considerable manual labour and expense.

“Now, all will be digitised and each judge will be given iPads or laptops from which they can access such documents. We attempt to be fully digitised by the middle of this year. For litigant disbursements, costs would be sharply reduced and this would help increase access to justice,” she added.

Separately, the CJ noted that the number of family law cases has been on the rise in the High Court. Hence, the judiciary is invoking Section 2 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to have senior Sessions Court judges hear non-contentious family law matters.

“This will allow High Court judges to focus on contentious matters,” said Tengku Maimun.

As the judiciary is a highly respected body, the CJ stressed that corruption will not be tolerated.

“We have implemented a policy that officers will be transferred once every three years to ensure, firstly, that they do not get too comfortable and become prone to temptation at their work stations; secondly, that they become well-rounded officers with varied experience.

“It is also a policy requirement that judges and judicial officers (like registrars and assistant registrars) have to declare their assets to the CJ and the Chief Registrar, respectively, to ensure accountability and transparency. Breach of ethics will result in the invocation of their respective Codes of Conduct,” Tengku Maimun added.

During the event, she launched the e-bail and e-courts systems to mark the launch of the new judicial year.

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