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Court rules Sedition Act legal, Azmi Sharom to stand trial
BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Published: 6 October 2015 10:27 AM | Updated: 6 October 2015 3:27 PM
Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom seen at the Federal Court in Putrajaya today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Kamal Ariffin, October 6, 2015.
Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom will have to stand trial for sedition after the Federal Court today dismissed his move to challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948.
The apex court today declared the law enacted under British rule was constitutional.
Today's ruling will impact some 30 politicians, government critics and activists who have been charged under the act since last year.
In September 2 last year, 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 an article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told” that was published in a news portal.
If convicted under either charge, he will face a maximum fine of RM5,000 or three years’ prison, or both.
Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, who delivered the unanimous judgment of the five-man bench, said the act did not run foul of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which pertained to the freedom of speech, expression and assembly.
He said the courts had limited power to review an act passed by Parliament.
"It is not for the court to determine a restriction imposed by parliament," he said.
In April, Federal Counsel Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah told the court during submissions that although the act was not a law made by Parliament, it must be construed to have been made by the federal legislature.
He said Malaysia's Parliament was only founded in 1959, and although the Sedition Act was not enacted by parliament, the law received a stamp of constitutional approval by the legislature.
The Sedition Act was also extensively amended after the racial riot in 1969.
Azmi 's counsel, Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, submitted that the act, originally known as the Sedition Ordinance 1948, was enacted by the Legislative Council.
He said the act was incapable of being modified and had become void upon establishment of the Federal Constitution in 1957.
Malik added that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong did not have the authority in law to modify the Sedition Ordinance.
But Arifin today told a packed court room that Parliament had the exclusive authority to make laws and that the legislature could modify pre-independence legislation.
"Such could be modified to bring them in line with the constitution," the judge added.
He said the court could also not add or remove words in the constitution or else it would be construed as rewriting the supreme law of the land.
Arifin added that the punishment provision in the act was in line with aims and object of Articles 10 (2) (a), which allowed Parliament to impose restrictions on the freedom of speech as it deems necessary in the interest of security, public order or morality and on other grounds to protect the federal and state legislatures.
He also noted that the Sedition Act did not impose total prohibition on freedom of speech, as there were exceptions in law, such as in legitimate criticism of a ruler or of the government.
"It is not seditious to show that any Ruler has been misled or mistaken in any of his measures, or to point out errors in any government or constitution as by law established," the chief judge added.
"With the above findings, we now order that this matter (Azmi's trial) be remitted to the Sessions Court for the proceedings to be continued without any further delay," he said. – October 6, 2015.- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/court-rules-sedition-act-constitutional-azmi-sharom-to-stand-trial#sthash.XGyv1fxQ.dpu
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Lawyers group repeats call to abolish Sedition Act after court ruling
Published: 6 October 2015 12:27 PM
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen says the rampant and indiscriminate use of the Sedition Act compounds the reasons why the act needs to be repealed. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 6, 2015.
The Federal Court ruling today declaring the Sedition Act constitutional was immediately decried by legal rights advocacy group, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), which said the colonial era law was antiquated and undemocratic.
LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said that most modern states in the world would have either repealed or put the oppressive legislation into disuse.
The Federal Court's decision today means Universiti Malaya law professor Azmi Sharom will have to stand trial for sedition, after being charged in September last year. The apex court today dismissed his bid to challenge the constitutionality of the 1948 act.
Paulsen, in a statement today, also lashed out at the rampant and indiscriminate use of the act, citing selective and double standards.
"The rampant and indiscriminate use of the Sedition Act and its wide, arbitrary and ill-defined 'seditious tendency' offence functions as a catch-all provision to target all and sundry for anything that is remotely contentious, thus stifling democratic norms and creating a climate of fear.
"The situation is made worse by the blatant selective and double standards use of the Sedition Act – cracking down hard against dissidents and opposition politicians for anything remotely controversial. For example against N. Surendran, Teresa Kok, Adam Adli (Abd Halim), RSN Rayer and many others while Umno or pro-Umno personalities like Ibrahim Ali and ‘Ali Tinju’ are let off even though what they have said is far more inflammatory," Paulsen said.
Surendran and Kok are federal lawmakers while Rayer is a Penang state assemblyman.
Adam Adli is a youth activist while Ibrahim heads Malay rights group Perkasa.
Ali Tinju, who real name is Mohd Ali Baharom, is the president of the Malay Armed Forces Veterans Association and has been in the news lately for allegedly making inflammatory remarks outside Kuala Lumpur's Low Yat Plaza in July.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2012 had promised to repeal the Sedition Act but made an about-turn following pressure from conservatives who want the law retained to protect national harmony and Malay privileges.
Paulsen also said that investigations and prosecutions using the Sedition Act were a waste of the police and Attorney-General’s Chambers resources, adding that they should have been better used to address real crimes.
LFL repeated calls to abolish the law and wants a moratorium imposed on its further use, including a drop of all prosecutions pending a repeal of the act.
Today's ruling is expected to impact some 30 politicians, government critics and activists, all of whom have been charged under the act since last year. – October 6, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/lawyers-group-repeats-call-to-abolish-sedition-act-after-court-ruling#sthash.4G1r3ROW.dpuf