More than eight decades after Dr Ahmad Bashir Mallal set up the Malayan Law Journal (MLJ) so that judges and lawyers could refer to legal precedents in Malaya and Singapore, the journal’s publisher, LexisNexis, is doing the same for other countries. (Read about Dr Bashir here.)
“MLJ was triggered by Bashir Mallal in 1932. It could have been someone else,” says Gaythri Raman, LexisNexis managing director South-East Asia in an interview on the 85th anniversary of the MLJ last year.
In 2016, the Chief Justice of the Maldives Hon Uz Abdullah Saeed commissioned LexisNexis to create law reports for the Maldives.
“The Chief Justice said that he wants his judges to cite precedents,” explains Gaythri.
When she asked whether judges have access to them, the CJ replied “not in the manner in which we are envisioning now”.
“I had a flashback to 1932 and Bashir Mallal,” says Gaythri.
“But this is 2016. A different jurisdiction with the same need.
“Here, it is the CJ himself who had the foresight to say, ‘My country needs this. My judges need to reference cases, the attorneys need to reference cases.
“We have completed the project. We did it in the Dhivehi language but we applied the MLJ house style for reporting Supreme Court cases.”
How far back did the team go?
“From 2008 to current. They wanted to focus on the Supreme Court judgments,” says Timothy Fernandez, LexisNexis managing editor, South-East Asia and Hong Kong (Primary Law).
Under the Maldives’ new Constitution of 2008, the Supreme Court was declared the highest institution of the Judiciary.
Do you have an office in Maldives? How do you report the cases?
“No, we don’t. We do all our work from the Malaysian office. The team consists of subject matter experts from both Malaysia and Maldives – and we have established a good process for information and work to go back and forth between countries,” replies Gaythri.
“This was a Maldives government project. The CJ asked for 300 sets, two volumes in each set, for him to distribute to the island’s courts there.
“From conception to delivery, it took us 12 months.”
LexisNexis also now has subscribers for the MLJ from the Maldives, specifically the Attorney-General’s office and the courts.
What’s next for LexisNexis Malaysia?
“Every single country in the world goes through different stages of maturity.
“As and when it is needed for us to come in and apply to make case law more digestible, transparent, more accessible, more understandable, we will do so,” says Gaythri.
“That is a huge responsibility. That is what we want to do from a South-East Asian perspective and beyond. If the country needs it, we want to be there to support the country. We have the expertise and we also have the heart.”
Gaythri says LexisNexis is committed to a “larger goal than just printing stuff in a book”.
“That’s what our ‘what’s next’ is, rather than just evolving with new apps and technology.”
The MLJ was incorporated in Malaysia in September 1981. The journal’s team joined the LexisNexis umbrella in 2000 but did not change their name to LexisNexis Malaysia Sdn Bhd until May 2008.
The US-based LexisNexis Group, which began as a group of legal-publishing brands, pioneered online information databases of legal and journalistic documents in the 1980s before expanding worldwide to work with publishers like the MLJ team; it now serves customers in more than 100 countries.