KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — A Sessions Court today granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to three activists who were charged a second time with violating a peaceful assembly law for participating in last year’s “Turun” rally.

Justice Ahmad Bache said in his ruling that he was bound by the Court of Appeal decision in Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad's case that declared Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) as unconstitutional.

The section criminalises public gatherings that are not notified to the authorities 10 days before they are held.

“As I'm bound by the Court of Appeal, it follows that the charge is groundless,” Ahmad said today.

The judge added that the Court of Appeal's April 25 decision in the case of PKR's Nik Nazmi is retrospective and applies to the three Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) activists, who rallied on December 31 against the controversial goods and services tax (GST) and the rising cost of living.

“It goes back from the time the law was passed,” said the judge.

He also said it followed that Section 9 (1) of the PAA, which mandates a 10-day notice to the police for public gatherings, was unconstitutional, since the Court of Appeal has ruled that Section 9 (5) ― which imposes a maximum RM10,000 fine for non-compliance ― violated the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

“Both sections have to be read together and not independently of the other. When the Court of Appeal declared Section 9 (5) to be unconstitutional, technically it must, in my opinion, mean Section 9 (1) is also unconstitutional,” the judge said.

After the hearing, Gobind Singh Deo ― lawyer for the three activists Badrul Hisham Shaharin, better known as Chegubard, Mohamed Bukhairy Mohamed Sofian and Edy Noor Reduan ― told reporters that the Attorney-General should take note of the appellate court's decision.

“He should respect the decision of the Court of Appeal and stop charging individuals with offences that have been declared unconstitutional,” said Gobind.

Badrul Hisham told reporters that the PAA has been abused to stifle government dissent.

“There have been so many pro-Barisan Nasional rallies, but who has been charged under this law? Not one,” said the activist.

The PAA was introduced as part of Putrajaya’s pledge to afford Malaysians greater civil liberties, but has been described as more restrictive than the law it replaced.