Datuk Seri Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, Datuk Linton Albert and Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi make up the new Judicial Appointment Committee (JAC). They replace the former JAC whose term was supposed to end in 2019.
But what is the JAC??
Well, the JAC works as an advisory board.
It’s tasked to suggest candidates to sit on the judicial bench. The Prime Minister will then – based on the list of the suggested candidates – advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the appointment and elevation of judges to the superior courts.
So in short, it basically means that the JAC gets to decide who becomes a judge and who gets promoted to the higher court.
Quick history lesson.
JAC was set up in the year 2009 with the objective to ensure that the selection process for the judicial members is not “bias and prejudice”.
The Commission consists of nine members including the Chief Justice as the Chairman. The Court of Appeal President and the Chief Judges of Malaya and Sabah fill up the remaining seats.
So who are these 4 men who hold this much power when it comes to the Malaysian Bench?
Well, we break it down.
Datuk Seri Mohd Hishamudin Yunus
One of the first name to be announced as part of the new JAC is Former Court of Appeal Judge, Dato’ Seri Mohd Hishamudin Yunus.
His appointment as a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission (“JAC”) took effect on 4 September.
Fun fact: Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus’s nomination to be promoted as a Federal Court Judge in 2013 was struck down by then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The former Court Of Appeal judge is known for his judicial activism and has written many landmark judgments.
His years on the Bench were marked by integrity, fearless independence and an unwavering commitment to constitutional supremacy.
One of the most notable cases under his belt is the 2015 Negeri Sembilan cross-dressing case.
The case involved several transgender women (also known as ‘Mak Nyah’) who were repeatedly detained, arrested and prosecuted by the religious authority of Negeri Sembilan. They were charged under section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan) 1992.
The section criminalizes any Muslim men who wear a woman’s attire or pose as a woman but it does not apply to women who dress or pose like a man.
Kinda bias right?
Well, Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus thought so too.
He held that section 66 of the Enactment is discriminatory and bias against Muslim men. Hence, it is in violation of article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution which ensures equal rights for all Malaysian citizens.
Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus also fearlessly pointed out that section 66 contravened the transgender community’s rights to freedom of expression.
Unfortunately, that decision was overruled by the Federal Court on appeal.
Nevertheless, it shows that Datuk Seri Hishamudin Yunus does advocate for the rights of Malaysians.
Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai
Mah Weng Kwai & Associates announced Dato’ Mah’s appointment to the JAC on the 14th September.
Dato Mah is the Consultant of the legal firm and also the Commissioner of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia a.k.a SUHAKAM for the term 2016-2019. He was also the President of the Malaysian Bar from the year 2001 to 2003.
Meaning he has lots of experience.
Dato’ Mah currently chairs the ongoing public inquiry into alleged state enforced disappearance of a few personnel.
This includes Pastor Koh, social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.
But if there were to be a defining case under his belt, it would definitely be the Teoh Beng Hock’s case.
In his judgment, Dato’ Mah stated that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission owed Teoh Beng Hock, who at that time was under constructive arrest by the authority, a strict duty of care. And that the MACC officers ought to have ensured Teoh’s safety at all times when he was in their custody.
Luckily, the new Malaysian Cabinet has agreed to reopen the case, so there’s might be justice in the end for the family.
Read more about the case here.
Datuk Linton Albert
It seems that East Malaysia will be represented as well by former Kuching High Court Judge, Datuk Linton Albert.
He delivered a landmark decision in favour of the Ibans from Kampung Merekai on a case regarding the native customary land.
Datuk Linton Albert stated in his judgment that the issuance of the provisional lease to Nirwana Muhibbah Sdn. Bhd. and the Land Custody Development Authority constituted a trespass on the Ibans’ land and infringed their rights to property under Article 13 of the Federal Constitution.
He is also a student activist idol.
Datuk Linton made it to the headlines in the UKM 4 case where he held that section 15(5)(a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 which prohibits students from the local universities to partake in any events related to any political parties, was unconstitutional.
He stated that it was absurd to subject the students to disciplinary proceeding just because they were present at the Hulu Selangor by-election.
Datuk Linton was also on the panel for Altantuya murder case. The then Court of Appeal unanimously set aside the death sentences imposed on Sirul Azhar and Azilah by the Shah Alam High Court in 2009.
Read more about the Altantuya case here.
Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi
The academician of the 4 men would be Constitutional law expert Professor Shad Faruqi.
Currently the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair at the University of Malaya, Professor Shad Faruqi has published many articles on our constitution and religion issues concerning the country.
Last year, the Malaysia Islamic Strategic Research Institute (IKSIM) lodged a police report against Prof Shad for critiquing the position and constitutionality of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (‘Jakim’).
Luckily, it seems that the police report did not proceed further than a cursory investigation.