Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Azmi Sharom strikes a first as court allows review of Sedition Act


Law Professor Dr Azmi Sharom’s application to challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948 was allowed by the Sessions Court today. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 1, 2014.

Law Professor Dr Azmi Sharom’s application to challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948 was allowed by the Sessions Court today. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 1, 2014.
The Sessions Court has allowed an application by law professor Dr Azmi Sharom to challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948 at the High Court, and to postpone his own sedition case to November 7.
Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge Zainol Rashid Hussain‎ agreed that there was a constitutional issue in Section 4 of the Sedition Act, which must be determined by the High Court.
‎Azmi's lawyer, Gobind Singh Deo, told reporters outside the courtroom that this was the first‎ time the High Court would look into the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948 on the grounds ‎that the law had not been enacted in parliament.‎
"The judge agreed with our application, this matter is now transmitted to the High Court so that the High Court‎ can determine the constitutional question we have posed and of course make a decision thereon on the matter," Gobind said.
‎On September 17, Azmi's lawyers filed an application for the courts to review Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948, saying that it was unconstitutional it violated Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
Gobind had argued that Article 10(2) of the constitution states that by law, only Parliament may impose restrictions on the rights under Article 10.
He pointed out that the Sedition Ordinance was enacted in 1948, prior to independence and ‎not passed through Parliament.
‎On September 2, Azmi, a law lecturer with Universiti Malaya, was charged under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1)(c) of the Act over his comments in a news article titled "Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told."
If convicted under either charge, he will face a maximum fine of RM5,000 or jailed up to three years, or both.
Gobind said the judge had vacated the dates that were initially fixed for Azmi's sedition case management in light of the review of the Sedition Act.
"But he's fixed (Azmi's sedition case) for mention on November 7 so that the parties can come before him just to update him on the status of the matter in the high court, which I think is fair.
"For now, the procedure that will be adopted is that the registrar of this court will write to the high court to inform the court that there is this (constitutionality) question that needs to be determined.
"We will wait for the notification from the High Court for dates and we will appear in the High Court accordingly."
Last month, PKR's Padang Serai MP N. Surendran and Seri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei had joined Azmi in challenging the constitutionality of the act on similar grounds.
Today, constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari will be questioned by the police under Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948 for his published comments on the Selangor Sultan's powers to appoint the state Menteri Besar.
He joins a string of opposition politicians, social activists, a law professor, news portal Malaysiakini and one of its journalists, as well as a Muslim scholar, who have either been charged with sedition, facing trial, or are under investigation.
Earlier this month, activists Safwan Anang and Adam Adli Abd Halim were sentenced to 10 months and 12 months in prison respectively, for remarks made at a May 13 forum last year calling on the people to take to the streets over the general election results.
Activist Ali Abd Jalil faces three sedition charges for allegedly insulting Johor royalty and the Selangor Sultan in Facebook postings. Ali, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was released on bail yesterday after being detained for more than 20 days.
Last Friday, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had his statement recorded by police over a report lodged against him in 2011, where he allegedly uttered seditious remarks over his second sodomy case.
On September 20, police recorded a statement from lawyer Edmund Bon, who is being investigated for sedition for saying that non-Muslims are not subject to fatwas or the shariah courts.
Former Selangor PAS ulama committee member, Wan Ji Wan Hussin, was charged on September 10 for posting allegedly seditious words on Facebook that belittled the Selangor sultan’s role as head of Islamic matters in the state.
On September 4, journalist Susan Loone was arrested in Penang over her article on an interview with state executive council member Phee Boon Poh, and the mass arrests of the state’s voluntary patrol unit (PPS) on Merdeka Day.
Other opposition politicians who have been charged with sedition include N. Surendran, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Batu MP Tian Chua, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, and Seri Delima assemblyman R. S. N. Rayer. – October 1, 2014.
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