A lawyer friend of mine was very sad, disappointed, angry, bitter and disgusted today. The reason- his client was sentenced to death by hanging. He is good defence lawyer ( we have done criminal trials together) so i have no doubt that he would have got an acquittal if the judge was fair and competent. He would not have felt the way he did if his client had got a fair hearing. But his client did not get a fair hearing- the judge was not learned and unable to appreciate the law. He lacked judicial skills of judges of the past. He sat and easily condemned a fellow man to death without any sound reasoning. According to my friend, he had submitted for two hours on fact and law until lunch time. Then court resumed after lunch and the judge delivered his decision to send his client to the gallows without giving reasons as to why he disagreed with points of law and fact raised by defence counsel. Given that this is a capital offence case, the judge should have been more careful when delivering his decision. Why not take a few days to consider arguments put forward? Why the hurry to convict the accused and send him to the gallows? Where is the compassion? Where is the patience? Where is the wisdom? Where is the caution? Where is the mercy? Where is the diligence? Are judges hearing too many cases that they have become immune to compassion, to justice, to life? Is the policy just to clear up the backlog of cases so that a judge can be promoted faster? Is the power to send people to the gallows being exercised for the sake of convenience and self interest? Is life no more dignified, sacred and precious? Are our judges experienced enough, learned in the law enough, to be entrusted with power to take away a man's life?
I have already voiced my complaint about the way the new JAC is constituted. The above episode just confirms my phobia about the present way of appointing judges. There are just too many judges coming from the government departments and the Attorney General Chambers. Otherwise lawyers in private practice who have had connections with the government in the past are appointed. Further there are too many Malays judges and too few judges from the other races.
Judges should be first of all compassionate, selflless, honest, of high moral standing, and very experienced and learned in the law. Otherwise they have no business being a judge. They should not take up the post to satisfy their lust for power, fame and glory. They should not go lobbying to be a judge. They should not fear the government, they should be courageous, they should be be fair, they should be humble, kind, graceful and honorable. They should be thorough and sound when delivering judgments. This should come easily if they have the experience in the law and a talent for writing. Their 'God' should be Natural Justice and Truth. The government has too much say in the appointment of judges and that is a real concern. With the political legal suits being filed these days, with so much at stake for the leaders and political parties involved, there is a strong suspicion that the government or the powers that be, want 'their people' to be appointed judges to serve their interest.
As far as the death penalty is concerned, i think life and death is too sacred and important an issue to be left in the hands of a judge. It should be abolished. If the death penalty cannot be abolished, then i think that the jury system should be revived in this country. At least we have group of 12 lay people deciding on the fate of the accused rather then one judge. It is always safer.