AG Ahmad Terrirudin Salleh tipped to be Federal Court judge, say sources

Ahmad Terrirudin Salleh was appointed to the post of Attorney-General on Sept 6 last year. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Attorney-General (AG) Ahmad Terrirudin Salleh is tipped for appointment as a Federal Court judge and may later be appointed to occupy the post of Chief Judge of Malaya (CJM), the third highest post in the judicial hierarchy, sources say.

A source said Terriruddin’s name was submitted by the Prime Minister’s Office for endorsement by the Conference of Rulers at its meeting next week.

“He is likely to be appointed a Federal Court judge first and CJM by the end of September in accordance with constitutional requirements,” the source told FMT.

Another possibility is for Terrirudin, 56, to be made a judge of the apex court, with the CJM’s post left vacant for the time being. The reason for such a move is unclear, the source said, although the possibility of it happening is remote.

Court of Appeal president Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim presently performs the duties and functions of the CJM on an interim basis.

The CJM position became open following the mandatory retirement of Zabidin Diah on Feb 29.

On June 6, FMT reported that the authorities were toying with the idea of roping in an “outsider”, such as Terrirudin or a senior lawyer, to take up the position.

Terrirudin meets the qualifications to be made a Federal Court judge since Article 145 of the Federal Constitution makes it a prerequisite of his current post.

Under Article 123 of the constitution, a person qualifies to be a Federal Court judge if he is a citizen, and has for the 10 years preceding his appointment been a practising lawyer or a member of the judicial and legal services.

A precedent for this was established when Mohtar Abdullah was made Federal Court judge soon after he retired as AG in 2002.

At the time, it was widely believed that Mohtar would rise to become the chief justice.

However, less than three months into his term, Mohtar suffered a stroke. He died on July 7, 2003, aged 59.

Terrirudin, who began his career as a legal officer in 1992 has served in various positions, including as a sessions court judge and later as chairman of the Industrial Court in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

He was also deputy head of the civil division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers and served as Kedah State Legal Advisor before being made chief registrar of the Federal Court in 2019.

On March 25, 2022 he was appointed solicitor-general and rose to become AG on Sept 6 last year.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar said it is not uncommon in Commonwealth countries for the AG to be appointed to a top administrative position in the judiciary.

He said Singapore’s former AGs Chan Sek Keong and Sundaresh Menon both went on to be appointed their country’s chief justice.

“However, parachuting Terrirudin straight into the apex court without going through the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is a cause for concern,” he added.

Lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali said he was perplexed as to why the authorities are putting aside the longstanding practice, prevalent since Merdeka, of appointing serving Federal Court judges to the post of CJM.

“The present 10 apex court judges started as judicial commissioners and most have fulfilled all the selection criteria outlined in the JAC Act to occupy the post,” he said.

FMT understands the JAC had proposed at least four judges, who each have between four and five years left in office, to occupy the post of CJM, with the possibility of being further elevated.

“The younger ones were proposed to facilitate the JAC’s succession plan as the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal President will also retire by July next year,” said a source.

Lawyer Salim Bashir said under Article 122B of the Federal Constitution, all appointments of judges to the top positions in the judiciary are made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, and in consultation with the Conference of Rulers.

“The JAC under the (JAC) Act merely proposes names for appointments. However, under the constitution, the final decision rests with the prime minister,” he said.


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