The Judges’ Ethics Committee (JEC) has decided to suspend Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer until Aug 27, 2021.
The decision was made as part of closed-door inquiry proceedings at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya yesterday, chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
Other panel members were Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf, Chief Judge of Malaya Azahar Mohamed, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Federal Court judge Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and two former Federal Court judges, Suriyadi Halim Omar and Prasad Sandosham Abraham.
The inquiry was held to investigate two complaints against Hamid by another judge involving his judgment as the Court of Appeal judge in the public prosecutor’s case against Aluma Mark Chinonso & Anor, and the affidavit he affirmed in support of an originating summons filed by lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo who sought several declarations with respect to court decisions made in her late father Karpal Singh’s appeals.
Hamid is the first judge to be suspended since the Judges’ Ethics Committee Act 2010 came into effect.
Lawyer Joy Wilson Appukuttan, who represented Hamid, informed Bernama of the decision yesterday.
“We have just received confirmation via a letter dated Feb 4 from the JEC chairman that the JEC was satisfied that the complaints have been proven and Hamid is suspended from office from today (Feb 4) until Aug 27, 2021.
“I need to get instructions from Hamid on the next cause of action,” the lawyer added.
It is understood that Hamid will retire in August.
Another lawyer representing Hamid, T Gunaseelan, said the inquiry proceedings would continue without the presence of his client.
He said they had requested that yesterday’s proceedings be postponed because Hamid was unwell and needed to isolate himself given the current pandemic situation.
“We also requested for an adjournment of the inquiry proceedings following the appeal to adjourn the proceedings to be heard in the Court of Appeal.
“However, the application for adjournment of the proceedings was not allowed by the panel members involved and the proceedings continued,” he said, adding that he and two other lawyers, Appukuttan and Dinesh Nandrajog, later decided not to participate in the proceedings.
On Feb 2, High Court judge Mariana Yahya rejected Hamid’s application to adjourn the proceedings before the JEC pending a decision on his appeal by the Court of Appeal after finding that he failed to show any special circumstances allowing the adjournment.
On Jan 21, Hamid failed in his application to challenge the JEC’s decision to hold a closed-door inquiry against him following Mariana’s decision to allow the objection by the Attorney-General’s Chambers against Hamid’s application for leave for judicial review.
On Oct 20 last year, Hamid filed the application for leave for judicial review, naming the chairman of the JEC and the JEC as the first and second respondents.
Hamid sought a certiorari order to quash the respondents’ decision as stated in the first respondent’s letter dated Sept 28 and 29, 2020, regarding the closed-door inquiry proceedings, declaring the decision invalid and void and in violation of Articles 5 and 8 of the Federal Constitution.
Tengku Maimun is the current JEC chairman.
Hamid, in a support affidavit filed with the judicial review, said the application was filed based on the decision of the first respondent to investigate two complaints raised against him by other judges.
He claimed that investigations into misconduct involving judges could not be conducted behind closed doors as it contradicts the principle of judicial independence.