Sunday, December 13, 2009

Malaysian Bar Opposes Judges' Obsession For Speedy Case Disposal

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 09  |  Bernama 

-- The Malaysian Bar on Saturday opposed the over emphasis on measuring the numerical cases rate disposal through the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which it said was a recent trend in the judiciary.

Its president K.Ragunath said fairness and overall quality of justice had been sacrified due to the obssesion for speedy disposal of cases and reliance on KPIs.

"The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Chief Justice to immediately review the implementation of the present initiative, and to work with the Bar so as to emphasise quality and integrity over quantity in the administration of justice and to ensure that justice is in no instance sacrificed in any obsession for speed or expediency," he told a news conference after chairing an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Malaysian Bar here.
Two motions were passed at the EGM; one on the issue of the KPIs proposed by Ragunath and Tommy Thomas, and the second on parking lots at every court complex, by Jason Kay.

The motion on the KPIs was moved after the Bar received complaints from its members on the recent trend which they described as "no matter what, cases in court must go on and no postponement would be allowed."

Ragunath said while the Bar supported the KPI move initiated by Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi for speedy disposal of cases in court, undue hardship should not be caused to its members and litigants.

"Postponement of cases is a judge's discretion, but it must be used reasonably, fairly, sensibly and courageously in all instances. If lawyers are sick, that is a good reason to postpone the case," he said.

"KPIs should be an indication to a judge in handling cases, the judge should not go too low or too high from the target. If the judge sets four (cases to be disposed in a month) but he achieves 12, does it mean he is a good judge?" added Ragunath.

Ragunath also invited members of the Bar Council to serve in specialist court committees for the three superior courts, wherein they would be tasked to liaise with the courts on the efficacy of administrative measures in enhancing the quality of justice.

Commenting on the "Tracking System" (a court system for early hearing and disposal of cases) that Tun Zaki re-introduced in the judiciary, Ragunath said: "We support the initiative but it is not being managed properly due to the shortage of staff numbers."

He said a court case can now be disposed within three years, compared to six to eight years previously.

On the parking lot motion, it was agreed by the Bar members today that parking lots for lawyers in every court complex be allocated for them and the interested parties in the case.

"Cars need to be parked within a reasonable distance from the court for practical resons such as that lawyers have to carry files and bags to court," said the motion.

Ragunath said the two motions would be forwarded to the Chief Justice soon. The EGM was attended by more than 500 members of the Bar.