Bar: Challenging Pardons Board, not Agong, on Najib's sentence


The Malaysian Bar submitted that their court action over former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s jail sentence reduction does not amount to challenging the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s power.

They instead contended that their judicial review leave application only targeted the advice given by the Pardons Board, which His Majesty is constitutionally bound to follow.

The Bar’s counsel Zainur Zakaria made the oral submission during today’s Kuala Lumpur High Court hearing of the body’s judicial review leave application to challenge the Board’s advice for a reduction of Najib’s 12-year jail sentence to six years and RM210 million fine to RM50 million.

Zainur (above) was responding to a contention made by Pardons Board’s representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) that judicial review leave ought to be denied as the courts have no power to hear cases involving the King’s constitutional prerogative to pardon.

Zainur, a former Bar president, told the civil court that a 1994 amendment to the Federal Constitution took away His Majesty’s power to grant pardon, and instead required the King to abide by the advice of the Board.

“The Pardons Board is only to tender advice. The King is bound by their advice and has to act in accordance with the decision (advice).

Malaysian Bar

“We are not challenging the power of the King in regards to pardons but rather the Pardons Board’s process,” Zainur told judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid.

The lawyer was referring to the 1994 amendment in Article 40(1a) of the Federal Constitution that requires His Majesty to act on advice when wishing to exercise his constitutional powers.

‘For the public good’

Meanwhile, the Bar’s co-counsel Yeo Yang Poh argued that leave ought to be given for hearing the merits of the judicial review because the subject matter has never been decided in Malaysian courts before.

The lawyer said the legal action would enable the Board to reveal whether sound grounds existed behind the advice for the sentence discount.

“Rather than leave it to the rakyat’s imagination and speculation like it is now, if they disclose it to the court, the Bar wishes to go deeper into this subject for the public good,” Yeo said.

Ahmad Kamal then set Sept 18 for further hearing of the matter, with the AGC and Najib’s legal team set to present their counter-submissions against leave being given.

The AGC is expected to present their objections against the legal action on grounds that it infringes on the Agong’s royal prerogative to make a decision.

In April, the Bar filed the legal challenge to nullify the Board’s decision to reduce Najib’s jail sentence and fine.

The applicant seeks a declaration that the Board’s decision on Jan 29 was unlawful, unconstitutional, and void, and wants a related court order to quash it.

The Bar is seeking a permanent injunction to restrain Najib from further submitting any application for a royal pardon, reprieve, or respite unless the former finance minister fulfils three conditions.

They include “all criminal prosecutions or charges against him have been exhausted, that he has publicly accepted responsibility for his actions for which he is convicted, and he has expressed repentance and remorse for his actions”. - Mkini

Bar: Challenging Pardons Board, not Agong, on Najib's sentence