Was a one year jail sentence for contempt of court, for a disgruntled litigant who had thrown his slippers at a panel of Federal Court judges, excessive? Who is to be blamed for the lack of confidence in the Judiciary?
I’ve always looked up to the national legal system as the guardian of the weak and the poor. Who else can we look up to in times of need if not the judiciary, the whole corpus of legal literature and the spirit of justice? But it is occurrences like this – the sanction of a one year prison sentence to an Imam for contempt of court (for throwing his slippers at the Federal Court bench) – that makes me detest the national legal system in this country and reaffirms my belief that the only way to seek justice is through politics and political action.
In what frame of mind was the Federal bench when they came to the conclusion to deliver such a punishment?
When a triad or group of judges who sit in the grandeur and extravagant Palace of Justice imposes such a punishment on a single, simple and sincere individual of the masses for this particular action, then it only proves one point: that this group of so-called ‘learned and wise people’ are nothing but a collection of elitist, egotistical and arrogant people who suffer from an inferiority complex. While the Federal bench has the whole State apparatus behind them, who is behind that man? He did something that was not right, but at least he did something that actually expressed how he felt. Those in the judiciary have sworn to uphold the principles in the Constitution. But how many have actually done that?
In what way does the Federal bench think its action of punishing that man will enhance its image in the court of public opinion and improve its credibility as well as the confidence in it among Malaysian society? You don’t demand respect, you have to earn it.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly do not support the idea of flinging anything at a Court bench but certainly these so-called ‘learned and wise people’ could have come up with a better way to address this matter. The law, and the ideals of the law, are supposed to empower and inspire, not bully and threaten an individual into timid submission. To mete out such a punishment on the grounds of appropriateness and deterrence misses the point completely. It awfully obscures the basic fundamental problems plaguing our government and the State.
What the man did is not correct, and he may be ignorant of the procedures of the court room (and so filed his Court documents out of time). True. But what does that say of the Judiciary and our whole legal system? We may not realise this or even choose to ignore this but the divide between the legal elites and system and the masses have become so wide that legal principles and procedures as well as the judiciary are irrelevant to everyday practical action and existence.
By irrelevant I also mean useless. How is it not when individuals who indulged in racist and sexist speeches, commit criminal breach of trust, engage in misappropriation of public funds and commit acts that violate fundamental Constitutional rights be allowed to escape the arm of the law? If the Imam should be jailed for contempt of Court, then surely the judge who took two years to write a judgement based on very controversial facts and questionable legal deductions should also be jailed? What about the judge who plagiarised references from another jurisdiction? What about the judges who betrayed justice and Tun Salleh Abbas in the late 1980s? Aren’t their actions in contempt of Court, or even worse still, of the very principles underlying the ideas of the law and justice?
This is something that is all so common to both the judiciary and the BN-led government. If an individual disrespects you, just put him in jail. Just like how the BN imprisons government critics using the ISA, censors criticism on the media using the PPPA, and attempts to regulate public rallies using the new Peaceful Assembly Act. If you don’t or can’t command his obedience, just use the law to threaten and eliminate any dissent.
And lastly, the AG’s Chambers argued for a jail sentence as a deterrent for it had brought ridicule to the honourable court. Do they not know that even before this both the judiciary and the AG Chambers have already attracted severe mockery and are seen as an embarrassment to the entire nation?
And who or what is the cause? Not the Imam or anyone else but the very people in the judiciary and the AG Chambers. The first shoe was thrown at you a long time ago.
This article was first published at Diskopi.