PUTRAJAYA (Jan 14): Chief Justice (CJ) of Malaysia Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said on Friday (Jan 14) that the Federal Court, Malaysia's apex court, does not impose a RM20,000 minimum cost on a party whose application for leave or permission to appeal a lower court's decision is dismissed.
Speaking at the Opening of the Legal Year event here on Friday (Jan 14), Tengku Maimun said the application involves civil cases which are scheduled to be heard at the Federal Court, where permission has to be gained before the merits of the appeal is heard.
"It (the cost) is still up to the discretion of the [Federal Court] bench presiding [over] the case.
“However, the costs have to be commensurate with the costs or preparation of submissions given by parties.
"It cannot be too high or too low. When you come to the Federal Court, you must be prepared to pay costs possibly higher than what is imposed in the High Court,” she said.
Tengku Maimun said she had seen or presided over cases where certain cost amounting to RM10,000 was ordered to be paid by the losing party, and sometimes RM30,000 or more was ordered.
She also noted that some civil cases that come to the Federal Court are frivolous and that the apex court at times has to consider the wasted time spent in hearing applications for permission to appeal lower courts' decisions.
According to her, the threshold for the Federal Court to grant permission to appeal lower courts' decisions is very high.
The CJ said the Federal Court's decision to grant such permission will be based on questions of law that had not been decided.
Tengku Maimun, however, said there are cases, where applications for permission to appeal lower courts' decisions, are filed as a matter of principle.
“However, the apex court does not impose a minimum cost [if application for leave to appeal is dismissed],” she said.
Tengku Maimun, who was speaking at a press conference in conjunction with the Opening of the Legal Year event here, was responding to a reporter's question on the possibility of the Federal Court imposing minimum cost of RM20,000 on a party which is unsuccessful in obtaining permission to appeal lower courts' decisions as the imposition of such costs will reduce access to justice.
Tengku Maimun said the judiciary is looking to appoint more Court of Appeal judges because the present batch of 27 judges acoss six appellate courts could be busy hearing appeals against decisions made by the Magistrate's Courts and Sessions Courts.
Across the six appellate courts, hearing is done five days a week and at times these hearings involve different panels, according to her.
"There are steps being taken to increase [the number of] judges in the Court of Appeal. The judiciary is in the midst of appointing Court of Appeal judges.
"If you recall from my speech the appellate judges do not only attend proceedings physically but also virtually," she said.
She said the judiciary recognises the backlog of cases from subordinate courts.
Meanwhile, Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf, who was also present at the Opening of the Legal Year event here, said she will engage with the present batch of Court of Appeal judges to identify possible problems related to appellate court operations.
Rohana said that sometimes Court of Appeal proceedings could not start due to urgent matters, hence, cases could not proceed at appellate courts.
"Sometimes the judiciary has to empanel seven or eight panels [of judges] in a day. Part of the reason is due to having virtual hearings [besides physical ones].
"The judiciary can form more panels with the appointment of new judges," Rohana said.