KUALA LUMPUR: Law professor Azmi Sharom has suggested that a preamble be introduced in the Federal Constitution to make judges bear in mind basic principles like rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for liberties when hearing cases.
“The constitution desperately needs a preamble so that when judges fall into a conundrum, they have a guide,” he said.
The Universiti Malaya lecturer claimed that Malaysian judges, particularly at the Federal Court, had failed to uphold these principles when exercising their verdicts.
He said the constitution could lead the country towards moderation and progressiveness if judges were enlightened and able to interpret it well.
He said while there were good and principled judges, most were retired while those who had not, were not serving in the Federal Court.
He said this posed a problem as the Federal Court was the highest court in the country.
Azmi was speaking at a dialogue entitled “Wither Freedom without truths in Malaysia?” at the PAUM club house here today.
He cited the case of ZI publications Sdn Bhd which had 180 copies of the Malay version of the book “Allah, Liberty and Love” seized during a raid by the Selangor religious affairs department (Jais) on May 29, 2012.
In April 2013, the Federal Court granted leave for a petition to declare as unlawful Section 16 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, which had been invoked in the seizure.
However, two years later, the Federal Court ruled that Selangor had acted within its powers in enacting Section 16.
“The constitution says that freedom of expression can only be restricted by the federal government. In this case, because the shariah law on offences was used, it was a state decision,” Azmi said.
“However, the Federal Court said it was okay because it was not a question of freedom of expression, but of offences against Islamic sensitivities,” he added.