Sentence reduction: Najib allowed to respond to Bar's action

The civil court has allowed Najib Abdul Razak to respond to the Malaysian Bar’s judicial review leave application to challenge the Pardons Board’s decision behind the reduction in the former prime minister’s jail sentence and fine.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court this afternoon allowed the oral bid by Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah for the ex-finance minister to be allowed to respond to the Bar’s legal action while it was still at leave stage.

Under civil law, judicial review leave application is usually done ex-parte (only one party present) during such hearings, and even if another party is present, usually it is the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) who usually acts for authorities targeted by judicial reviews.

However, civil court judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid today made an exception for Najib, who is the second respondent targeted by the Bar’s judicial review, to be allowed to take part in the proceedings (the first respondent is the Pardons Board, who is represented by the AGC who is present today).

Since this morning, the civil court has been hearing oral submissions from the Bar’s lawyer Zainur Zakaria for the legal profession body to get leave to commence judicial review.

In Malaysia, a party needs court leave before it can proceed to a hearing on the merits of the action, to weed out frivolous and vexatious actions.

“After hearing oral submissions from Najib’s lawyer Shafee, I find that this case involves public interest and the second respondent is named as a party.

“In light of this being the leave stage (of judicial review) and due to public interest, I utilise my discretion to allow the second respondent to be present today’s proceedings,” Kamal said.

The judge then gave the Bar and AGC two weeks to serve their cause papers to Najib’s legal team and ordered the former premier to file response written submissions by Aug 8.

Kamal further directed the Bar and AGC to file their counter-written submissions by Sept 9 and set Sept 18 for a hearing of the judicial review leave application.

Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly acted for the Pardons Board.

Challenge to nullify

In April, the Bar filed a legal challenge to nullify the Pardons Board’s decision to reduce Najib’s 12-year jail sentence to six years and RM210 million fine to RM50 million.

The applicant is seeking 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”.

According to a copy of an affidavit in support of the judicial review affirmed by Bar secretary Murshidah Mustafa, the Bar contended that the Pardons Board via a press release notification about the decision on Feb 2, did not provide a reason for the controversial outcome.

The Bar pointed out that the Pardons Board left the public in the dark on why a former prime minister involved in “grand larceny of significant public funds” obtained the halving of his prison sentence and more than three-quarters reduction of the fine.

“The Pardons Board’s unreasoned decisions constitute a betrayal of the nation’s faith and trust in its investigating, prosecuting and judicial authorities concerning their efforts to bring to justice a figure who corruptly abused his position of high office.

“The Pardons Board’s decisions have also brought massive disrepute to Malaysia, and damaged investors’ confidence,” Murshidah said. - Mkini

Sentence reduction: Najib allowed to respond to Bar's action