ICJ urges Malaysian government not to undermine the rule of law

The ICJ’s CIJL is concerned by the government’s proposal to amend the Constitution so as to undermine the separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.

As in other countries, this separation of powers is the vital safeguard for citizens, enabling the courts to defend their constitutional and democratic rights and freedoms against encroachment by the parliament or government.

The government proposes to amend Article 121(1) of the Constitution by deleting the statement that the ‘judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in the two High Courts’ (of Malaysia and Borneo) and by adding that the jurisdiction and powers of both the High Courts and the inferior courts shall be ‘conferred by or under federal law’.

In other words the government and parliament will be able to limit or restrict the jurisdiction of the courts and have judicial matters decided instead by persons or bodies responsible to the government or parliament.

For example, another new clause in the Constitution is proposed whereby the Attorney-General is to be given the power to decide in which court a case shall be instituted or to transfer a case from one court to another. This is being done in order to overrule a recent decision of the Supreme Court that the power of transfer of cases is a judicial power under the Constitution and cannot therefore be vested in the Attorney-General.

The ICJ and the CIJL support the appeal made by Bar Council of Malaysia to retain the independent power of the judiciary so as to safeguard the rights of citizens.

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