Justice Harun Hashim

- at the public meeting “Tan Sri Harun Hashim – A Great Malaysian Judge” held by the DAP
Tommy Thomas

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): It would be unfortunate if history only remembers Justice Harun for his famous ruling in the UMNO case in 1987. 

I would rather focus on the way in which he dispensed with justice on a daily basis in cases before him, which over a 25-year period meant that his decisions affected thousands of litigants. 

  1. Personality on the Bench
  • Fiercely independent.
  • Proud of the office of a Judge.
  • Fair and patient on the bench.
  • Never mocked, belittled or bullied counsel or litigant.
  • Tremendously hard working. Always cleared his daily list.
  • Very decisive. Concerned to reach a decision quickly so that the aggrieved party could proceed to appeal to the Supreme Court expeditiously.
  • I short, he possessed an excellent judicial temperament.

Justice Harun decided cases as the textbooks state a judge should: the party, which in his judgment, had the stronger case both on the evidence and on the law would succeed in his Court. It was as simple as that.


  1. Judicial Review Proceedings
  • Conscious of his role as impartial arbiter of disputes between State and citizen.
  • Not overawed by the Executives.
  • Not correct to say that he was anti-Establishment.
  • Thus numerous challenges against Governmental action failed.
  • Eg. - Malaysian Bar’s challenge on the constitutionality of the 7-year rule;
          - KC Cheah’s challenge of the alleged misuse of EPF monies;
          - Lim Kit Siang’s attempt to commit Prime Minister Mahathir for contempt of Court.


  1. President of the Industrial Court
  • Was a tremendously successful President – without doubt the best in our history.
  • Brought his innate sense of fairness and justice to the task of industrial adjudication.
  • Abhorred bullying methods of unreasonable employers – a soft spot for the underdog workers and unions.
  • Yet, retained credibility in the eyes of the employers.
  • Introduced the simple style of handling down Awards speedily.


  1. Judge in the Criminal Court
  • Was a very successful criminal law judge.
  • Brought to the office of the Judge his background in the Attorney-General Chamber and his days in the Anti-Corruption Agency.
  • Yet scrupulously fair.
  • Held a proper balance between prosecution and the accused.
  • Famous for telling off Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, that if the law required a chicken to be served, the prosecution should not produce a duck to Court!


  1. As Administrator
  • Often great judges have no patience or interest in administration matters.
  • Justice Harun, on the other hand, was an excellent Administrator.
  • In every Court that he presided he was quick to spot administrative drawbacks and equally quick to propose and implement reform.


  1. Socialising with lawyers
  • The New Zealand holiday that Chief Justice Eusoff Chin was criticized for allegedly taking with a lawyer in the mid-1990’s brought to sharp focus the proper relationship between Bench and bar.
  • For Justice Harun, there was no such problem, real or perceived.
  • From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Justice Harun would frequently lunch in the Royal Selangor Club and have drinks in the Long Bar in the evening.
  • Any lawyer could join him for lunch or drinks.
  • That did not mean that that lawyer would receive any benefit in Court the next morning before Justice Harun.
  • Instead, he would win if he had a good case; conversely he would fail if he had a poor case. It was as simple as that.
  • Justice Harun always tried to inculcate the camaraderie and friendship that exist in the Inns of the English Bar into the Malaysian legal system.


  1. Extra Judicial statements
  • In the mid-1980s, Justice Harun made extra-judicial statements at seminars and conferences which attracted the criticism of Dr Mahathir.
  • Dr Mahathir went on the offensive and made numerous public attacks on the judiciary in general and Justice Harun in particular.
  • This resulted in Lord President Salleh Abas writing the letter, which was signed by about 20 senior judges, to the Yang di Pertuan Agong, which in turn resulted in Salleh Abas’s suspension and dismissal in 1988.
  • With the benefit of hindsight, one wonder whether Harun was wise in taking such a outspoken public position against a very authoritarian leader of the Executive.


  1. Summary
  • Justice Harun was neither perfect nor infallible.
  • His written grounds of judgment never seemed to reflect his oral reasoning and did not do justice to his intellect.
  • His position on the dismissal of the 3 Supreme Court judges and the suspension of another 3 judges was not consistent with his life long commitment to justice and fairness.
  • Nonetheless he was a great judge –one of the best that Malaysia has produced.
  • It was my privilege, after having been called to the Bar by him in 1976, to appear before him on countless occasions, always leaving the Court, regardless of whether my client succeeded or not, fully satisfied that I had a fair crack of the whip, and justice substantially served.



* Tommy Thomas, former Bar Council Secretary