In the past week I have the privilege of conducting a trial in the judge's chamber. Kawtim involved? Definitely not. What happened was that the judge was too ill to proceed hearing the case in open court. She can barely walk to the majestic chair that we lawyers, DPPs and civilians alike, bow everyday as a matter of respect when we hear the magic word "bangunggggg!". So the judge declared her chambers as open court.
Conducting a criminal trial in chambers whereby the judge is restless and not in the best of health is neither pleasant nor dramatic. It's so peaceful and surely I can't raise my voice against joker witness although I wish I had done so, upon hearing the investigation officer replying with a standardized answer; "saya kurang pasti pula". In the end what transpired was a civilized trial with parties giving utmost respect to each other.
What really concern me is the way the pressure (read: KPI) has forced officers of the court to give priority to trials rather than their own health. This kind of occupational hazard is uncalled for and so unfair especially to good, hardworking officers. In a way, I salute the dedication and passion of the officer. Having said that, is it worth it to compromise on one's health?
Have we arrive at the stage that the superiors are everything worth sacrificing for and it is at the expense of our own health? As long as we adhere strictly to the commands whether it is justified or oppressive in nature; then we should be happy even though we might better be elsewhere, say in the hospital or resting at home? Gone are the days where officers of the court tolerate each other and accept health reason to adjourn cases even without MCs?
Being involved in an ultra stressful job like a judge, lawyers and prosecutors; we cannot ignore that the nature of the work itself is hazardous to our health; be it physical and even mental health. Let's face it, we as officers of the court are swimming daily in this toxic pool as we practice adversarial system. We appear in court to fight our opponent but of course what differentiate a noble officer with the rest is the goal is to achieve justice. Expect nothing less than "tensyen, pening kepala, sakit hati, bengang" etc.
Let us bring back some common sense and humanity in our justice system. After all, the end result is justice itself and not numbers that determine the effectiveness of an officer or otherwise. If an officer's health is not in the best position to proceed with the case, then an adjournment or a replacement is suitable. The superiors should try to understand more and be flexible when it comes to a genuine health reason. After all they themselves once occupying the lower ranks before they sit comfortably at the upper echelon of the pyramid. Wassalam.