Thursday, June 15, 2017

Selective expediting of redelineation court cases worries Bar

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Malaysian Bar president George Varughese has raised concern over directives by Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif to expedite legal challenges against the Election Commission's redelineation exercise.

Varughese noted that while the legal challenges in Selangor and Malacca, which have stalled the EC's delineation exercise, were expedited, the appeal of a failed challenge against the EC in Perak, was not.

"If the administration of justice is to be seen as even-handed, the courts must be concerned not only in cases where the decision has gone against the EC, but equally in cases where the EC has won and there is an appeal," he said in a statement last night.

Varughese also questioned the manner in which the Selangor and Malacca cases have been expedited, pointing out that they did not appear to conform to practice directions as there was no consent from the challengers.

"We agree with the principle that court hearings for matters of public interest - such as these challenges against the EC in relation to the ongoing electoral redelineation exercise - should be given priority because the implications of these legal challenges are far-reaching.

"However, prioritising such cases should not come at the expense of all parties concerned not having the opportunity to undertake proper and thorough preparation for the hearings.

"This hastily arranged change or fixing of hearing dates, without the agreement of the parties, runs counter to the Chief Judge of Malaya’s Practice Direction 2 of 2011, which was issued after consultation with the Chief Justice of Malaysia," Varughese said.

Specifically, he added, Practice Direction 2.3.2 disallows the date of a case to be carried forward without the consent of all parties.

In the Selangor challenge, brought by the state government, its case management was set on July 6 but was abruptly moved forward to June 9.

Furthermore, the hearing which was initially fixed on July 19 was moved to June 20 without the agreement of all parties.
In the Malacca challenge, brought by residents, the hearing for the appeal was fixed for June 20 even before an appeal was recorded by the Attorney-General's Chambers on behalf of the EC.
"This is contrary to the practice where hearing dates are not fixed before the appeal record has been filed," said Varughese.

"The Malaysian Bar calls on the judiciary to ensure that all cases dealing with challenges to the EC be conducted with the utmost of transparency and integrity.

"In addition, due and proper regard must be paid to the need for counsel for all parties to have adequate time to prepare and present their written and oral submissions in a manner that is befitting their dignity," he added.

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