PUTRAJAYA: The government has filed an objection that the Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction to hear constitutional issues raised by four men convicted of violating the Peaceful Assembly Act.
In its application filed last week, Putrajaya said only the Federal Court, as the apex court of the country, could hear and determine constitutional matters.
The government said aggrieved parties could only apply to the High Court to refer constitutional issues to the apex court.
The Court of Appeal is the intermediate court between the High Court and Federal Court.
“The Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction to determine constitutional issues based on a Federal Court ruling in the case of Gan Boon Aun v Public Prosecutor,” government lawyer Nadia Hanim Mohd Tajuddin told a three-man Court of Appeal bench today.
She said the panel, led by Mohtarudin Baki, could only hear the merits of the appeal from the High Court.
Lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan, appearing for social activist Fann Peng Fong Thomas, 54, engineer Koh Jit Huat, 54, Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Tebrau division chief Steven Chong Shiau Yoon, and PKR member Mohd Salleh Ahmad, 53, asked for an adjournment to reply to the objection.
“We have yet to receive a copy of the government’s objection,” she said.
Mohtarudin then adjourned the matter to April 27.
The four were charged with taking part in the “Free Adam Adli” assembly near a petrol kiosk on Jalan Tun Razak in Johor Bahru on May 21, 2013.
The Sessions Court, in January 2015, fined each of them RM5,000 or in default three months’ jail.
High Court judge Sabiran Ja’far last year maintained the conviction but reduced the fine to RM1,500.
The four then appealed to the Court of Appeal and went a step further to challenge the constitutionality of Section 4(2)(b) of the PAA.
The government filed a cross-appeal to enhance the fine to RM10,000.
This case is the first appeal involving the section of the new act which came into force in 2012.
Counsel Sivarasa Rasiah had told the High Court it was unfair to define a petrol kiosk as a protected area when the four were at least 50m away from the station.
Lawyer Jimmy Puah, who appeared with Sivarasa, said the definition of “assembly” in the Act is too broad as any two persons in a protected area is defined as illegal assembly.
Therefore, he said, if two persons go to a convenience shop in a petrol station to buy a drink and chit chat, it is defined as illegal assembly.
He said there were 150 people at the nearby area of the petrol station on the day, and the four were not armed with dangerous weapons.