PETALING JAYA: The Immigration Department director-general (DG) followed the law when he refused Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua the right to be heard over a travel ban, the Court of Appeal said.
Justice Idrus Harun, who delivered the court judgment, said although the right to life and personal liberty were guaranteed under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, any deprivation of such right was allowed if it was in accordance with law.
“Section 59 (of the Immigration Act) is, in our opinion, one such law enacted by Parliament,” he said in the unanimous judgment that threw out Pua’s appeal for a declaration that the ban on his right to travel with a valid passport was unconstitutional.
He said the section expressly excluded the right to be heard before the home minister, the director-general or the state authority in the case of Sabah and Sarawak.
A three-man bench held on Wednesday that the right of Malaysian citizens to travel overseas is at the absolute discretion of the government.
Idrus, a former solicitor-general, before he was elevated as Court of Appeal judge, in giving a narrow interpretation, said Article 5 on the right to liberty excluded the right to travel abroad.
Idrus said the denial of the right to be heard under the Act and Article 5 was in accordance with law as it was approved by a competent legislature.
He said the equality clause under Article 8 was also not violated as Pua was not discriminated against.
Idrus said Pua had no legitimate expectation to travel abroad when a passport was issued.
“In the present case, there is no such promise made by the respondents (the director-general and government) that even with a valid passport, the appellant (Pua) will not be barred from leaving the country for a valid reason.
“Further, there is an express provision in the passport that the passport is the property of the government which may be withdrawn anytime,” he said.
Idrus said there was no express provision or implied duty for the director-general under the Immigration Act to state his reason for imposing the travel ban.
Pua was under investigation by police for an offence allegedly committed by being involved in an activity which the government claimed was detrimental to parliamentary democracy at the time of the travel ban.
The judge said it should remain confidential and any disclosure to the suspect (Pua) or any other person might jeopardise investigations.
Idrus said the director-general did not act mechanically in preventing Pua from leaving the country after receiving a letter from the police.
Pua took the authorities to court after he was prevented from leaving the country at the KL International Airport 2 on July 2, 2015.
The travel ban was later lifted, but Pua continued with his legal battle.