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PUTRAJAYA: Malaysian judges are capable of serving the bench until 70 years of age as life expectancy has gone up, out-going Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria said.
He said judges in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia retired between the age of 70 and 75.
“They are surprised our judges retire at 66,” he told reporters during an interview on the eve of his retirement this week.
He said Federal Court judges in the United States remained in office as long as they were physically and mentally healthy.
“We need not go to that extreme but it is sufficient that the retirement age here be raised to 70,” he said.
To extend the tenure of judges, Ariffin said the Federal Constitution would have to be amended with two-thirds majority support.
However, the Barisan Nasional government does not enjoy the super majority to approve constitutional amendments in the Dewan Rakyat.
Arifin said it was left to the MPs to vote according to their conscience or party line if an amendment were to be tabled.
Former law minister Rais Yatim, who last year suggested extending the retirement age of judges, said a judge might not have the adrenalin surges of a younger person, but “it is the dexterity, wisdom and brainpower that we want”.
On another matter, Arifin said he encouraged judges to write dissenting judgments if they had a strong opinion on the cases to be decided.
“There must be real reasons to dissent. Don’t simply dissent for the sake of dissenting. If you feel you need to depart from the views of the majority, you are duty bound to do so,” he said.
Arifin said he had written judgments which departed from the majority while sitting in the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court.
He said academicians, lawyers and the public could comment on judgments but it must be couched in temperate language.
“We encourage commentaries as we want to know the opinions of the legal fraternity and academics,” he added.
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