Surendran wins bid to challenge sedition charge in High court

A policeman escorts PKR vice-president N. Surendran out from the Sessions Court at Jalan Duta Court Complex in Kuala Lumpur, August 19, 2014. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng
A policeman escorts PKR vice-president N. Surendran out from the Sessions Court at Jalan Duta Court Complex in Kuala Lumpur, August 19, 2014. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 19 — A Sessions Court has ruled that Padang Serai MP N. Surendran’s sedition case should be heard at a higher court.

In his judgement, Judge Ahmad Bache said that unlike the High Court, powers of the Sessions Court is limited, adding that the lengthy submissions put before him by both the defence and the prosecution teams were themselves proof that the case needs to be argued in the higher courts.

“It is trite that this court has no jurisdiction to determine any question of law regarding constitutional issues,” Ahmad said in his ruling.

PKR lawmaker, Surendran, filed a challenge to the Sedition Act 1948 on September 18, arguing that the colonial-era law that was used against him had violated the Federal Constitution.

On August 19, the Padang Serai MP was charged under Section 4 (1)© of the Sedition Act for criticising the Court of Appeal’s ruling that overturned a lower court’s decision to discharge Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from his second sodomy charge.

Surendran, who is Anwar’s lawyer, was accused of committing the offence in a news release titled “Court of Appeal’s Fitnah 2 Written Judgement is Flawed, Defensive & Insupportable” that was issued to news portal Malaysiakini on April 18 this year.

He also faces a second sedition charge under the same clause for an August 8 YouTube comment, where he allegedly accused the prime minister for being “personally responsible” for the alleged rushing of dates in the Federal Court’s hearing of Anwar’s second sodomy court case.

If found guilty, Surendran faces a fine of up to RM5,000, a maximum three-year jail term, and also risks losing his position as a lawmaker as stipulated under Article 48 of the Federal Constitution.

Under the law, MPs can be stripped of their title should they be sentenced to a one-year jail term or fined over RM 2,000.

The outspoken lawmaker is charging the constitutionality of the Act on three points, as to whether or not the law complies with the Federal Constitution, and/or whether the Act is in breach of Articles 10, 8 and 5 of the Federal Constitution and whether or not it is constitutional as there is no need to prove an intention for offences tried under the Act.

However, Ahmad in his verdict said that the two questions on constitutional issues aren’t new as presently, there are cases arguing the matter before the Federal Court, citing the cases of University Malaya (UM) law professor Prof Dr Azmi Sharom and social activist Haris Fathillah Mohd Ibrahim.

“Hence, this case should be accorded the same treatment.

“If this court were to disallow this application and to proceed with the trial of this case and in the event that the Federal Court gives decision in the favour of Azmi Sharom, which will be binding on this case, this trial will be rendered nugatory as it will be declared invalid,” Ahmad further read, ordering a stay of the proceeding and transmitted the two questions of constitutionality to be raised in the High Court.

Ahmad however disallowed the third point that the Act is unconstitutional as it does not require one to prove an intent as it has no merits.

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