Lawyers for Liberty calls AG's discretion over dropping charges 'contrary to rule of law'

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Liberty have expressed concerns over Attorney General (A-G) Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh's statement that the AG's Chambers (A-GC) is not obliged to disclose its decision to drop charges against an accused individual, calling it "contrary to the rule of law".

Its director Zaid Malek said it is disappointing that the statement came from the A-G at the opening ceremony of the legal year.

"If the A-G has no duty to give reasons to the public, as claimed by Ahmad Terrirudin, it means he is not accountable to the public. This is a novel and unprecedented claim.

"To suggest that the A-G's powers are not accountable to the public is contrary to the rule of law and plain wrong," Zaid said in a statement today.

Earlier, Ahmad Terrirudin said the A-GC is not obligated to inform the public on its decision to discontinue charges against an accused person.


Ahmad Terrirudin said the power to initiate or discontinue a case is under the public prosecutor's discretion, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

Zaid contended that in a democracy, no public office, including that of the A-G, should be exempt from public scrutiny and accountability.

Zaid said the Federal Court's consistent rulings stipulate that the A-G does not possess absolute discretion in starting or discontinuing prosecutions, a stance recently emphasised by the Chief Justice in the case of 'Sundra Rajoo v Home Ministry and others'.

"As discretion is not unfettered, reasons must be provided.

"The exercise of a public duty can never be shrouded in secrecy, contrary to the rule of law.

"No public officer, whether A-G or prime minister, can exercise his powers at his whims or refuse to disclose reasons," he said, emphasising that such actions would lean towards despotism, not democracy.

Zaid criticised the A-G's statement, suggesting it might be a reaction to widespread public criticism over the dismissal of 47 corruption charges against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a key political ally of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

"If so, this explanation is legally and constitutionally untenable and does not instil confidence in the criminal justice system," he added.

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