PUTRAJAYA: PKR’s Sri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei will stand trial for sedition after the Federal Court allowed the government’s appeal today against a Court of Appeal decision.
A five-man bench chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop ruled there was abuse of court process by Mat Shuhaimi in challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 (3) of the Sedition Act.
Ahmad, who delivered the unanimous judgment, said similar issues raised in this case had also been decided by a Court of Appeal panel in 2013.
“We allow the appeal and set aside the 2016 Court of Appeal ruling and reinstate the High Court decision,” Ahmad said.
Mat Suhaimi, who is political secretary to the Selangor menteri besar, will now return to the Sessions Court in Shah Alam on Wednesday for case management before a trial date is fixed.
Government lawyer Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud later told reporters that the Federal Court’s decision to set aside the 2016 Court of Appeal ruling would render Section 3 (3) as constitutional again.
“Today’s ruling is also important as it will stop those charged with a criminal offence to file a civil action to declare a law unconstitutional in order to get an acquittal,” he said.
He said such interference should be stopped and the Federal Court explained in detail the meaning of abuse of court process.
On July 17, government lawyer Noorbahri Baharuddin, who has since retired, told the Federal Court that Mat Shuhaimi was abusing the court process by raising again an issue that had already been settled in his first sedition criminal application.
Noorbahri said the assemblyman could not raise the validity of Section 3 (3) in his civil application as it was impliedly argued previously.
However, lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, appearing for Mat Shuhaimi, said the point raised in this case was not argued in the first criminal application.
“The present case is about the prosecution having to prove the element of intention (mens rea) in sedition cases and this was never decided in the criminal application,” he had said.
Sri Ram said Section 3 (3) stated intention was irrelevant but his client contended that the provision was unconstitutional.
On Nov 25, 2016, the Court of Appeal’s three-man bench, led by Justice Lim Yee Lan, had allowed Mat Shuhaimi’s appeal and declared Section 3 (3) as unconstitutional as it violated the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The Court of Appeal’s ruling would have meant the prosecution had to prove intent before a person could be convicted of sedition.
Mat Shuhaimi was charged with sedition on Feb 7, 2011 over a blog posting on Dec 30, 2010 at Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.
On April 1, 2011, he applied to the High Court in Shah Alam to strike out the charge on grounds that the Sedition Act was unconstitutional as it conflicted with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of speech.
His application to strike out the charge was dismissed by the High Court but was accepted by the Court of Appeal in 2013.
Then in September 2014, he challenged the constitutionality of the Sedition Act but the High Court dismissed his suit.
In allowing Mat Shuhaimi’s appeal, the Court of Appeal invariably struck out the charge and he was not required to stand trial in the Sessions Court.