|Information Service Department, Hong Kong|
( January 16, 2013,
Guardian) Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma has reiterated the impartiality of the Judiciary, emphasising that while the courts take into account public interest when deciding cases, judges do not look to what the public or the Government desires as the outcome of any given case when making their judgments. Hong Kong, Sri Lanka
Speaking at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2013 today, Mr Ma said the public interest that is served by the courts is in the adherence to the fundamental concepts of fairness, dignity and justice in the application of the law.
“I refer to these fundamental concepts because the courts are mandated to apply not just the content of the law but, sometimes more importantly, its spirit. But it is always the law and its spirit that dominate. No-one, no institution, is above the law.”
He said although the courts sometimes deal with the legal questions arising from political matters, the courts and their activities should not be politicised.
“I entirely respect the rights of individuals to exercise their freedom of speech – indeed I think it is healthy in a society for this to happen and it is in any event guaranteed as a fundamental right here in Hong Kong – but the courts and judges will not be influenced by the very many different points of view to which one is exposed these days. The courts and judges will at all times adhere only to the law and to its spirit – the community expects nothing less of the Judiciary.”
Judges international professionals
Mr Ma said the Judiciary requires judges of the highest quality and standing to serve the administration of justice.
“Article 92 of the Basic Law provides that members of the Judiciary be chosen on the basis of their judicial and professional qualities. These stated qualities provide the only criteria for the appointment of judges.
“Apart from the Chief Justice and the Chief Judge of the High Court, there is no nationality requirement in the Basic Law for any other judge. Quite the contrary, the Basic Law, in the same Article 92, refers to members of the Judiciary being able to be recruited from other common law jurisdictions.
“Article 82 specifically provides that the Court of Final Appeal may ‘as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit’ on the court.
“Since July 1, 1997, the Court of Final Appeal in almost all its full appeals has invited a judge from an overseas common law jurisdiction to sit on the court. These common law judges, comprising holders and former holders of the very highest judicial offices in their respective jurisdictions, have been tremendous assets for the Court of Final Appeal and for
“The presence of these judges has without doubt added a significant dimension to the Court of Final Appeal and its work. Many of the leading judgments in the appeals heard by the Court of Final Appeal have been written by the common law non-permanent judges.”
Court to open in 2015
On the relocation of the Court of Final Appeal to
Jackson Road, Mr Ma said the move will take place in the middle of 2015.
“This may seem to be a long way off but the project, involving as it does structural tests, careful restoration of the historical features of the old building, and the design of a functional, and larger chamber for the court itself, is a large project.
“I look forward greatly to seeing the building welcome not just the users of the Court of Final Appeal but also members of the public. It will provide a constant, imposing and unshakeable reminder of the rule of law in
Speech, rights respected
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said at the ceremonial opening that it is an important part of the concept of the rule of law that legal issues be allowed to be resolved through the judicial system.
“If we truly respect the rule of law, we should fully respect the legal right of a litigant to have legal issues resolved through the judicial system, irrespective of whether the litigant involved is an individual, a corporation or a government department.
“If there are important legal issues that require resolution, a responsible Government should have the courage and determination to have the legal issue properly adjudicated by the judicial process irrespective of the divergent opinions such a step may generate.
“We have a world-class judiciary and true judicial independence. We should have every confidence that cases, however controversial they may be, will be decided by our judges strictly in accordance with the law and in a fully independent manner.
“We fully respect freedom of speech and people’s legal right to express their views. Caution, however, should be exercised so judges can decide cases in an environment free from undue interference or pressure of whatever form. Unlike the political process, the judicial process is not subject to any lobbying and should not be so.”
( Special Thanks to the Information Services Department, Hong Kong )