Legally Speaking by Roger Tan
Who a former judge later associates with and what he subsequently does or says will still be closely scrutinised by the public.
THE morning after I retired, a Rolls Royce arrived at my house with a message that I was required to attend a very important board meeting. Without further ceremony, I was taken to the penthouse of the Chartered Bank. Here, I was appointed chairman and required to call the meeting to order.
“There were only three items on the agenda. Caviar, champagne and any other matters arising therefrom. At noon, we adjourned to a private room in the Shangri-La for a sumptuous lunch. When I was driven back home at 3pm, I greatly regretted I had not retired years earlier!”
Those were the bantering words of one of Malaysia’s most celebrated judges, Tun Mohamed Suffian, at a dinner given in his honour shortly after his retirement as Lord President on Nov 12, 1982. At first glance, these may well be facetious remarks, but it does go to show that a retired judge can be commercially marketable and become an asset for any organisation to be associated with.
Needless to say, who an ex-judge later associates with and what subsequently he does or says will still be closely scrutinised by the public. His judicial conduct during his pre-retirement or resignation days may even be called into question if he later exhibits strong inclinations or preferences whether politically, socially or morally.
However, currently, the Judges’ Code of Ethics 2009, made pursuant to Article 125(3B) of the Federal Constitution, does not deal with the conduct of judges after their retirement or resignation. Hence, an ex-judge will have to be guided by his own conscience when he embarks on any post-retirement activities. Most of them will become an arbitrator or join a legal firm as its consultant or a statutory body as its chairman. To date, only three are said to have returned to the court as counsel – Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas, Datuk Kamalanathan Ratnam (better known as R.K. Nathan) and Datuk Gopal Sri Ram.