Activists get nod to challenge constitutionality of street protest ban in High Court

Adam Adli (picture) and Mohd Fariz were both arrested in February last year for participating in a KitaLawan rally and were subsequently charged under the PAA on September 8. — Picture by Choo Choy May.
Adam Adli (picture) and Mohd Fariz were both arrested in February last year for participating in a KitaLawan rally and were subsequently charged under the PAA on September 8. — Picture by Choo Choy May.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — Two activists charged over their participation in a street protest last year will be allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the ban on open air and moving assemblies in the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 at the High Court.

Magistrate Mohd Rehan Mohd Aris decided today to allow Mohd Fariz Musa and Adam Adli Abd Halim’s applications to refer questions on the constitutionality of the Act to the High Court, and postponed their cases pending the latter court’s disposal of the matter.

Lawyer Eric Paulsen told reporters later that the PAA has in the past been challenged before but never on its provisions on street protests.

“Though the PAA was challenged before, the provision challenged was on the notice period. We are now challenging provisions pertaining to street protests,” he said.

Adam Adli and Mohd Fariz were both arrested in February last year for participating in a KitaLawan rally and were subsequently charged under the PAA on September 8.

On December 17, the duo filed applications under Section 30 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 to refer a constitutional question to the KL High Court on whether Sections 4(1)(c), 4(2)(c) and 4(3) of the PAA 2012 were incompatible with Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the Federal Constitution, which provides for freedom of assembly, movement and freedom of speech.

Mohd Rehan set June 15 for the next hearing to determine when the constitutional challenge will be heard at the High Court.

Section 4(1)(c) of the PAA stipulates that peaceful assembly rights do not apply to “street protests” while Section 4(2)(c) states that it is a crime to organise or participate in such a protest.

The law also defines a “street protest” as an “open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes”.

If found guilty, the two activists could face a fine of up to RM10,000 under Section 4(3) of the Act.

Previously, a constitutional challenge was mounted by PKR’s Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad on the 10-day notice period mandated under Section 9(5) of the PAA.

 

Despite the Court of Appeal initially ruling the section unconstitutional in 2014, the same court overturned the decision last year.

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