SHAH ALAM, Nov 7 — A High Court here acquitted today PKR's Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad for a “record” fourth time of the same offence under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, a decision his lawyer hoped will mark the end of the matter.
Citing the doctrine of binding precedent, Shah Alam High Court Datuk Abdul Halim Aman said that he was bound by the ruling of a higher court that had acquitted the PKR politician.
“The High Court is not competent to revise, revisit or change the court order that was issued by the Court of Appeal,” he said when reading out the grounds of his judgment.
In a landmark decision on April 25, the Court of Appeal had acquitted Nik Nazmi after ruling that it was unconstitutional to criminalise spontaneous public assemblies in breach of the 10-day notice required under Section 9 (1) of the legislation.
The three-person bench said on April 25 that Section 9 (5) of the PAA ― which imposes a maximum RM10,000 fine for non-compliance ― ran counter to the Federal Constitution and must be struck out.
Despite the acquittal, the Attorney-General’s Chambers attempted on May 6 to charge Nik Nazmi for the second time for the same offence, but the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court struck out the bid. Another acquittal by the same court was also granted the same month.
When met outside the courtroom, Nik Nazmi's lawyer, N. Surendran, told reporters that he believed the quadruple acquittal for the same offence is a “record” in Malaysia.
“That means a person is being recharged again and acquitted for the fourth time. I hope there will not have to be a fifth time or sixth time. I hope this will be the end of it,” he said.
When asked if the AGC will appeal today's decision, DPP Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told reporters that he will have to seek further instructions.
The AGC is also appealing the Court of Appeal decision to the Federal Court, but Wan Shaharudin confirmed to reporters today that a date has yet to be fixed.
In an immediate response, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)'s Eric Paulsen said that the AGC should drop all plans to prosecute Nik Nazmi.
“It's very simple. Until and unless the Court of Appeal's decision is overturned by the Federal Court, Nik Nazmi remains a free man. There should not be two ways about it and the AG should stop prosecuting him,” he told reporters, adding that it would “not bode well” for the AGC to be seen as “sore losers”.
Surendran also said that with the Court of Appeal's “clear” decision, no one can be charged for the offence that was declared unconstitutional.
Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi, 32, was previously charged with allegedly violating Section 9 (1) by failing to notify police 10 days prior to the Blackout 505 rally at the Kelana Jaya Stadium on May 8 last year.
The former PKR communication director was charged on May 17 last year for the same offence.
Nik Nazmi is among the seven Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders, including two MPs, who were charged under the controversial legislation for organising various Blackout 505 rallies claiming the results of the Election 2013 were rigged.
All other cases involving the same offence that was used against Nik Nazmi have since been postponed and put on hold pending the outcome of the AGC's appeal at the Federal Court.