PETALING JAYA: The government will appeal today’s Court of Appeal ruling that struck out a provision in the Sedition Act for violating freedom of speech and equality under the law, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali said.
“We have 30 days to file the motion of leave to appeal the decision,” he told FMT in a WhatsApp reply.
Since this matter orginated from the High Court as a civil case, the government has to formulate novel legal or constitutional questions for public advantage.
The apex court will only proceed to hear the merits of the appeal if leave is obtained.
This new ruling may allow the Federal Court to have another opportunity to ventilate similar legal issues in the case of former DAP national chairman Karpal Singh, whose next of kin are appealing against the sentence and conviction for committing sedition in 2009 against the late Perak ruler (Sultan Azlan Shah).
Karpal, a lawyer and Bukit Gelugor MP, was killed in a road mishap on April 17, 2014.
In a landmark decision today, a three-man bench led by Justice Lim Yee Lan held Section 3(3) of the Act contravened Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Bench member Varghese George, who delivered the judgment, said under Article 8, all persons were equal before the law and the Act discriminated against accused persons.
Justice Harminder Singh was the other bench member.
Varghese said Section 3(3) deviated from the norm in other laws. “Other legislation need the prosecution to prove the element of intention.”
Under normal conditions, he said the burden of proof was with the prosecution.
The ruling allowed an appeal by PKR Sri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei, who had filed for a declaration to rule Section 3 of the colonial-era legislation as unconstitutonal.
Last year, the High Court, in dismissing Shuhaimi’s suit, said his action was an abuse of the court process.
Shuhaimi, charged with sedition in 2011 based on a blog post on the appointment of then Selangor state secretary Mohd Khusrin Munawi, had earlier failed to strike out the charge on constitutional grounds.
Meanwhile, lawyer Amer Arshad called on the police to drop investigation against former ministers Muhyiddin Yassin, Shafie Apdal and Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, who are being probed under the law.
“Today’s ruling amplifies that the restriction to free speech must be applied stringently because it involves a fundamental right.”
He said the trio made speeches in the Dewan Rakyat with the intention to protect the rights of the people and the nation over the 1MDB issue.
“I also call on Apandi, who is also the public prosecutor, to review all sedition charges pending before the court.”
Student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim, who was fined RM5,000 for inciting the public to topple the government soon after the 13th general election, is still waiting for the Court of Appeal to hear his appeal.
Another activist, Muhammad Safwan Anang, who committed an offence similar to Adam Adli, is awaiting judgment from the Court of Appeal.
Both were fined RM5,000 by the High Court but the prosecution has cross-appealed.
Lawyer N Surendran, who represented Shuhaimi, said Section 3 (3) had been struck out from the statute book as of today.