Najib Razak's defence team has filed an application to recuse Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat in the former prime minister's final appeal against his conviction, jail term and fine for the misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International funds.
This comes as the hearing of his appeal resumed today after an eventful start last week which saw his lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik attempting to discharge himself and Najib laying off his recently appointed solicitors from representing him in his final attempt to avoid jail.
The five-man panel of judges led by Tengku Maimun unanimously rejected Hisyam's bid to discharge himself, saying he had failed to disclose adequate cause.
Hisyam remains as Najib's counsel on record although he declined to present any submissions last week, citing insufficient time to prepare.
Speaking in court today, Hisyam said the defence had filed an application to recuse the top judge late last night.
He said a copy of the application had also been served to the prosecution.
But ad hoc prosecutor V Sithambaram said the prosecution had yet to receive a sealed copy of the application, and that the proceedings for the recusal could not be heard until then.
Tengku Maimun then asked Hisyam whether there was anything the defence wanted to submit with regards to the main appeal, to which the lawyer said no.
He added that he wished to respond to Sithambaram's submissions on whether the court could make a decision without the defence's submissions.
Tengku Maimun directed Hisyam to submit the defence's reply to Sithambaram.
However, Hisyam insisted that the recusal application should be heard first.
To this, Tengku Maimun replied: "You should submit on the six authorities the prosecution relied upon that the court could make a decision without the defence's submissions."
At this juncture, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim interjected, saying that the bench would hear the defence's reply first.
"We are here not to waste time," said Tengku Maimun before asking the court staff to get the necessary documents related to the recusal application.
According to Reuters, the application cites "a real danger of bias" due to social media comments made by Tengku Maimun's husband in 2018 that were critical of Najib.
"Being the husband of the chairperson that is adjudicating my appeal it is likely that he would have influenced the thinking of the mind of the chairperson as to my alleged culpability," according to the application seen by Reuters.