Retired judges must refrain from making remarks of a political nature or get involved in politics as such conduct touched on their integrity, said lawyers and a former judge.
They said unlike retired civil servants, the public still expected retired judges to have the traits of serving judges.
Their response came following the revelation that retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah had campaigned for Barisan Nasional in the Kajang by-election.
On Wednesday, Noor (pic) told a group of Umno members at a ceramah in Taman Koperasi, Kajang that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak did not have absolute power to influence the judiciary to set aside the sodomy acquittal of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
However, he told The Malaysian Insider that he was at the Barisan Nasional-organised ceramah in his capacity as consultant and constitutional expert to explain a legal position.
“I spoke about the law and not politics like telling voters who they should or should not cast their ballots for,” he said.
On March 7, the Court of Appeal sentenced Anwar to five years jail, reversing the acquittal by the High Court in 2012, in a charge of sodomising his former aide.
The conviction prevented Anwar from contesting in the by-election. His wife and PKR president, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, will now stand as the party’s candidate, against Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun of BN.
One of the issues used by the opposition in their campaign in Kajang is that Najib was responsible for orchestrating Anwar’s conviction and five-year jail sentence.
Commenting on Noor’s appearance at the BN ceramah, retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Shaikh Daud Ismail said his first impression was that Noor had joined Umno.
“Retired judges should not get involved in politics as it will show which side they were on while in office,” he said.
Shaikh Daud said politics was definitely out of bounds for retired judges, just as they should not go to court and argue cases before their peers or juniors due to public perception.
“Now litigants who had lost their cases before this judge may also contemplate asking for a review,” he said.
Lawyers for Liberty executive director, Eric Paulsen, described Noor’s behaviour as shocking as it appeared that the judiciary was not only working against the opposition on trumped-up charges in court, but also on BN’s campaign trail out of court.
“Such misbehaviour further sullies the abysmal reputation of the judiciary and lends further credence to the accusation that the judiciary is not free from political influence,” he said.
Paulsen also said Noor’s appearance at the ceramah was in support of BN as Anwar’s conviction was a deciding issue for voters.
“In the past it was BN politicians who defended the judiciary, but this time around the testimony of retired judge is used to convince the public that the government had no hand in Anwar’s conviction,” he said.
Lawyer N. Surendran said it was unbecoming and unprecedented for a retired judge to conduct himself in a such a “disgraceful” manner.
“He is extremely pro-Umno and pro-Malay rights and this in turn raises questions over his impartiality and professionalism when he was on the bench,” he said.
Surendran, who is Padang Serai MP and PKR vice-president, said Noor’s conduct had also brought further disrepute to the judiciary.
“A retired judge at all times must conduct himself in line with the office he once held,” he added. – March 22, 2014.
BY V. ANBALAGAN, The Malaysian Insider