In explosive allegations made in open court, Justice Ian Chin also said he was threatened by former premier Mahathir Mohamad over high-profile cases, one involving a close associate of the then-leader.
"Now, though he is no longer the prime minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges, the coalition party that he led is still around," he said, according to the Borneo Post.
Chin made the allegations, which were picked up by the national press Wednesday, before hearing a dispute over results of March general elections in Sarawak state on Borneo island.
He said he was targeted by Mahathir after refusing to award "astronomical" payouts in two libel cases in 1997, while a judge who agreed with the then-premier's views was promoted to the Federal Court.
Afterwards, Chin reportedly said he was packed off to a five-day boot camp with selected judges and judicial officers.
It was without any doubt "an attempt to indoctrinate those attending the boot camp to hold the view that the government interest as being more important than all else when we are considering our judgement," he said.
Chin also said he was aware of other judges who were told how they should rule on particular cases.
Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenavasan called for an inquiry into the allegations, which she said were "both startling and damning."
"Judges, both present and past, must be encouraged to come forward and provide information on any such instances of interference so that further action may be taken," she said according to the New Straits Times.
Mahathir stood down in 2003 and his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised for failing to carry out his promises to tackle corruption, which is deeply entrenched in politics and business.
Chin's allegations add to the pall cast over the country's judiciary by a recent royal commission into a sensational Mahathir-era video clip that showed a top lawyer brokering judicial appointments with the help of politicians.
The commission found in May that there was evidence of an "insidious" conspiracy to influence the appointment of judges, and the government promised to investigate those implicated.
Mahathir has challenged the authorities to charge him.
"I want them to charge me in court. Only then will I have the opportunity to expose more conflicts faced by the judges, including those who have implicated me," he said.
Mahathir's spokesman Sufi Yusoff told AFP the former premier was aware of Chin's comments and would respond in due course.
An aide to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the premier declined to comment on the issue.
What Justice Ian Chin said: Read here
"....I am smarting over the complaint that the detention of my father and brother during the time of the Mustapha regime in Sabah in late 1969 and the early 1970 should have been but not disclosed.(See Sabah Foundation & 2 Ors vs Datuk Syed Kechik & Anor, Kota Kinabalu High Court at http://kkhighcourt.com/Completed Civil Matters/SabahFoundation.doc) .
What I am going to disclose relate to what happened AFTER two of my judgements were handed down. One was the judgment in a libel case which I handed down on February 5 1997 .
(see Raveychandran v Lai Su Chon & Ors at http://kkhighcourt.com/Completed Civil Trials/RaveychandranNST.pdf) by which I distinguished MGG Pillai V Tan Sri Dato Vincent Tan Chee Yioun & Other Appeals (1995) 2 MLJ 493 and refused to give what I consider to be astronomical award for damage to reputation in libel cases.)
Shortly after those two judgements, the Judges Conference was held from April 24 1997.
The then prime minister was scheduled to have a dialogue with the judges on that date. What was termed a dialogue and later reported as one was anything BUT a dialogue.
The then prime minister went there to issue a thinly veiled threat to remove judges by referring to the tribunal that was set up before and stating that though it may be difficult to do so, it was still done.
No one had any doubt that he was referring to the election case though he (then prime minister) did not mention it specifically which he decided on Feb 13, 1997.
After he was done with issuing that threat, he then proceeded to express his view that people should pay heavily for libel.
He managed to get a single response from a Court of Appeal judge who asked whether he would be happy with a sum of RM1 million as damages for libel.
He approved of it and he later on made known his satisfaction by promoting this judge (since deceased) to the Federal Court over many others who were senior to him when a vacancy arose.
I was devastated after hearing all that but help came immediately after the “dialogue” was over when Federal Court judges came to my side and asked me to ignore him.
Equally comforting were the words of my brother High Court judge who later told me that the then Prime Minister was too much.
It will be recalled that the then prime minister not long after he assumed office had said, in a much publicised campaign against corruption, that he will put the fear of God in man but this apparently, given his diatribe in that conference, changed to instilling a fear of him if any judgment is to his dislike.”
To rub it in, he said, Bernama circulated a press release with one appearing in a Sabah newspaper (The Daily Express May 25 1997) which “was far from stating the truth”.
A month later, Chin said he was packed off to a boot camp from May 26-30 together with selected judges and judicial officers.
Chin told the court that he was happy to later on learn that Kamil did not bow to the pressure by the Chief Justice and went on to hear the petition and thereafter making a decision based on the law and evidence.
"...The boot camp was without any doubt an attempt to indoctrinate those attending the boot camp to hold the view that the government interest as being more important than all else when we are considering our judgement.
Stating this devilish notion was by no less a person than the President of the Court of Appeal. Everyone was quiet during the question sessions.
Also invited to the boot camp was a lecturer from a university who berated the election case and the bright spot in this episode was that a judicial officer, during question time, told the lecturer that she had no question but only a statement to make which was that the lecturer was in contempt of court.
The then prime minister was scheduled to talk but he did not turn up and instead sent his then deputy who instead of talking invited questions and the one question I remembered being asked was — Are politicians looking for girls when they are often seen loitering at posh hotel lobbies?
The perversion of justice did not stop there. My brother judge Kamil Awang was one morning looking for me after clocking in; we were both then serving in Kuching, Sarawak.
When I met up with him in his chambers he was distraught and he told me that he had last night received a telephone call from the then Chief Justice asking him to dismiss the election petition that he was going to hear in Kota Kinabalu.
He sought my opinion as to what to do with the telephone call.
We went into the possibility of making a police report or of writing to the Chief Justice a letter to record what he had said over the telephone but in the end he decided against it since it will be his words against that of the Chief Justice."
The High Court judge said he had twice stood unsuccessfully as a Barisan Nasional candidate for a parliamentary and later for a state seat in Sabah in the 1980s and in one of those elections he was defeated by a DAP candidate.
He said he had also heard other election petitions, namely Yusuf Abdul Rahman v Abdul Ajis & Ors and Lee Hie Kui v Song Swee Guan & Darrell Tsen.
“...Now, though no longer the prime minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges which should therefore dispel any fear which any judge may have of him, if ever there was such fear, nevertheless the coalition party that he led is still around and the second respondent won on a ticket of that coalition party and it may cross someone’s mind that I may have an axe to grind against the party concerned or any member thereof.Chin then adjourned for half an hour to let the parties digest what he had said and to consider whether they wished to make any application for his recusal.
The petitioner in this case may also have similar view with regard to my defeat by a candidate standing on the ticket of a party to which he belongs.
So I wish to hear from the parties as to whether they (counsel or parties) in this case entertain any such notion and whether they wish to apply for my recusal so that, if any, I can make a decision thereon.
After this disclosure, litigants who were affected by the hundreds of judgment that I had handed down since those infamous days may justifiably worry as to whether any of my judgments were in any way influenced by this attempt to hang the Sword of Damocles over my head.
No amount of words from me would assuage you of your worry; you will have to read my judgments as to whether they are according to the evidence and the law or whether they were influenced by threat.”
However, they expressed their full confidence in him in presiding over the hearing of the case.
Justice Ian Chin - Background: Read here
JUSTICE Ian Chin, 60, is the most senior of Malaysia's 48 High Court judges, having been appointed in 1992. He is serving in both Sabah and Sarawak.
He was previously a lawyer before being elevated to the Bench.
According to his disclosure in court, he had twice stood unsuccessfully as a Barisan Nasional candidate for a parliamentary, and later state, seat in Sabah in the 1980s. He lost to a Democratic Action Party candidate.
He also disclosed that his father and brother had been detained in Sabah in late 1969 and 1970, but he did not give reasons for their detention.
According to senior lawyers, Justice Chin has a reputation for being independent-minded and bold.