Justice Harun Hashim
- at the public meeting “Tan Sri Harun Hashim – A Great Malaysian
Judge” held by the DAP
by Tommy Thomas
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.
- Personality on
- 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.
- Judicial Review
- Conscious of his
role as impartial arbiter of disputes between State and citizen.
- Not overawed by
- 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
- Lim Kit Siang’s attempt to commit Prime
Minister Mahathir for contempt of Court.
- President of the
- Was a
tremendously successful President – without doubt the best in our
- Brought his
innate sense of fairness and justice to the task of industrial
- 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.
- Judge in the
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- Socialising with
- 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
- 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.
- Extra Judicial
- 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
- 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
Tommy Thomas, former Bar Council Secretary