The Bar Council rejected today a claim that its proposed Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme discriminated against junior practitioners who would be fined if they do not go for the training.
Professional Standards and Development Committee chairman Richard Wee pointed out that Section 35 of the Legal Profession Act 1976 related to the rights and privileges of lawyers to act in courts and was not relevant to the proposed training programme.
“The proposed CPD motion and the implementation will in no way impede or limit the ability of a member of the Bar to appear in court.
“Non-compliance with the scheme will not impact on the members’ ability to continue in legal practice, and does not in any way deny existing rights and privileges to members,” Wee said in a statement sent to Malay Mail Online.
Some lawyers opposed to the CPD scheme had cited the provision to support their argument.
Lawyers told Malay Mail Online recently that the proposed CPD scheme is discriminatory as it only applied to lawyers who have been in practice for five years or less.
The Bar Council motion proposed that the CPD scheme take effect for a two-year cycle from July 1 this year till June 30, 2018, with non-compliance punished with fines of between RM100 and RM500.
Wee said the CPD scheme started with a specific group because the Malaysian Bar expects to provide financial assistance to such lawyers.
“This assistance will aid these individuals to gain access to training conducted by members of the Bar for members of the Bar in selected training areas.
“The Bar Council will still continue conducting CPD programmes for the entire membership, and the scheme will eventually extend to the entire Bar,” he said.
He also dismissed the claim that the CPD scheme violated Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that states that all are equal before the law.
“The equality provision in Article 8(1) is not absolute. All it requires is that a person in one class be treated the same as another person in the same class (i.e all lawyers 0-5 years should be treated equally) and that there must be a rational relation or nexus to a policy or object to be achieved by a statute or statutory provision.
“The policy/object is to improve the knowledge and skills of this selected group based on available financial resources,” said Wee.
The CPD scheme is scheduled for debate at the Malaysian Bar’s annual general meeting this Saturday.
Bar Council of Malaya