Government’s Sedition Act appeal to be heard on July 17

latheefa-koya-gavelPUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has fixed July 17 to hear the government’s appeal to set aside a landmark ruling by a lower court declaring Section 3 (3) of the Sedition Act as unconstitutional.

Lawyer Latheefa Koya, appearing for Sri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei, said the date was fixed following case management before deputy registrar Shahrin Jeli Johari.

In November last year, the Court of Appeal, which allowed Mat Shuhaimi’s appeal, said that both intention and the act must be proven by the prosecution to establish a prima face case.

In February, the Federal Court allowed the government’s leave to appeal application without contest.

Latheefa said today, “During the appeal, we will be revisiting the 2015 Federal Court ruling in Azmi Shahrom’s case.”

In October 2015, Universiti Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom lost his constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act 1948 and was ordered by the Federal Court to stand trial for issuing an allegedly seditious remark.

The government finally dropped the charge against Azmi.

Latheefa said, in Azmi’s case, the apex court made an error of law as the Sedition Act which was enacted in 1948 could not have been passed by a competent federal legislature as the Parliament only came into existence in 1957.

Critics of the Sedition Act obtained a major concession when the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 3(3) of the legislation was unconstitutional as the prosecution was exempted from proving intention of accused persons.

A three-man panel chaired by Justice Lim Yee Lan had said that both intention and the act must be proven to establish a prima face case.

Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali is expected to lead the government team while former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram will argue for Mat Shuhaimi.

Apandi had said he would personally handle the case as it was of public interest.

Mat Shuhaimi mounted the constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act, which was used to charge him on Feb 7, 2011, over his blog posting said to have been made on Dec 30, 2010.

Mat Shuhaimi kept his Sri Muda state seat in the 13th general election with a whopping majority, but a sedition conviction could disqualify him from holding office.

First-time offenders face a maximum three-year jail term or maximum fine of RM5,000 or both, with either a one-year jail term or a RM2,000 fine, enough to make Shuhaimi lose his seat.