KUCHING: The High Court here today set Jan 23 to decide on an application by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to recuse a judicial commissioner from hearing its case against the Sarawak Comptroller of State Sales Tax (SST) and the state government.

Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin fixed the date in chambers after hearing the submissions by counsels from both parties.

Sarawak Attorney General Datuk Talat Mahmud told reporters that Petronas, through their counsel Alvin Chung, applied to recuse Chin on the grounds that being a judicial commissioner, he had not been confirmed as a High Court judge and would be dependent on the advice of the Prime Minister.

“Their (Petronas) argument is that if he (Chin) decides in favour of Petronas, then he would probably get his confirmation, but if he doesn’t, he would not get his confirmation,” he added.

Talat, representing the Sarawak Comptroller of SST and the state government, argued that if such circumstances applied to the judicial commissioner, it also had to apply to judges from the High Court all the way up to the Federal Court as their promotion depends on the advice of the Prime Minister.

On Nov 21, the Sarawak Comptroller of SST and the state government filed a writ of summons and statement of claim against Petronas at the High Court registry here to recover the state sales tax owed by the national oil and gas company to the state.

Following this, Petronas filed for a judicial review, seeking among others, a declaration of certain sections of the notices issued by the Sarawak Comptroller of SST as ultra vires to the Federal Constitution and therefore, null and void, and an order of certiorari that the notices dated Aug 28,2019, Oct 7,2019, and Nov 13,2019 to be quashed.

On Jan 7, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Sarawak Comptroller of SST and the State government against the Kuching High Court’s ruling in allowing the leave application by Petronas for the judicial review. – Bernama