Apex court to decide if voters can challenge gazetted electoral roll

Court-PutrajayaPUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court will decide whether aggrieved voters’ legal challenge against the Election Commission (EC) begins from the time of a gazette notification or communication by letter.

This question came up after a three-man bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop allowed the EC’s leave application to appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling.

“We feel the legal questions need further argument as they are of public importance,” Ahmad said.

The Federal Court will also determine whether voters could challenge the electoral roll once it has been gazetted.

On July 3, the Court of Appeal kept alive the hopes of three voters who applied for a judicial review of the EC’s decision to alter the boundaries of the Kuala Kubu Baru and Batang Kali constituencies in Selangor.

High Court judge Justice Azizul Azmi Adnan had, on Jan 25 this year, allowed the EC’s preliminary objection that the judicial review was filed out of time.

However, a three-man Court of Appeal bench chaired by Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, in allowing the voters’ appeal, ruled the 90-day limitation period for judicial review started from Aug 3 last year.

She then ordered the High Court to hear the case as there were triable issues to be determined.

The EC then took its case to the Federal Court.

Voters P Maradeveran, Zahar Rusuli and Yong Chan Hee, made a complaint to the EC for illegally moving them to another polling district by altering the boundaries.

They said under Section 7 (2) of the Election Act 1958, the EC was empowered only to change the polling district within a constituency but not the constituencies of voters.

Maradeveran, Zahar and other voters in the Batang Kali seat were moved to the Kuala Kubu Baru seat but they wrote to the EC in July last year to seek the reason for the transfer.

The EC replied in a letter dated Aug 3 that no voters were moved but it had conducted a locality correction exercise.

Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said the 90-day period to file a judicial review against the EC should begin from Aug 3, the day his clients were officially told about relocating them to another polling district.

In Yong’s case, he said the EC communicated to him on Sept 14.

The three applied for the judicial review on Oct 21, well within the 90-day limitation period, he said.

Gobind also said the courts could not be ousted from hearing a dispute when the EC’s action was illegal and unlawful.

Government lawyer Amarjeet Singh said leave should not be given as the limitation period started from April 29 last year when the electoral rolls were gazetted.

Amarjeet said the court had no jurisdiction to hear the application under Section 9A of the Election Act once it had been determined the judicial review was filed out of time.

The three, in their leave application, sought an order of certiorari to quash the EC’s decision in altering the constituency of registered voters.

They also wanted an order to quash the EC’s decision in altering the constituency of registered voters from Batang Kali to Kuala Kubu Baru and vice versa.