Ex-Umno men granted appeal against dismissal to challenge party’s legality

The Umno logo is seen in Kuala Lumpur June 17, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The Umno logo is seen in Kuala Lumpur June 17, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 21 — Sixteen former Umno were today granted leave to appeal to the Federal Court against the High Court and Court of Appeal's dismissal of their bid for leave to initiate a judicial review to challenge the legality of the political party.

This followed a unanimous decision by the Federal Court’s three-man panel, led by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah,  in allowing their application for leave to appeal.

Under the law, litigants wishing to appeal a Court of Appeal’s decision in a civil case must obtain leave from the Federal Court.

Justice Wong granted the application for leave to appeal on two legal questions.

One of the questions is whether Section 18C of the Societies Act 1966, which ousts any court's jurisdiction to entertain any suit, application, question or proceeding on any matter relating to the affairs of the party, is ultra vires Article 121 of the Federal Constitution.

The other is whether the Federal Court’s decision in the case of Pendaftar Pertubuhan vs Datuk Justine Jinggut is still a good law in the light of the recent decisions of the Federal Court in cases involving Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd vs Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat and another, and M. Indira Gandhi vs Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak and others.

In both cases, the then Federal Court judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali (now retired) held that judicial powers rest with the judiciary and that ouster clauses in legislation that removed the jurisdiction of the courts to review certain matters within the legislation was unconstitutional.

In their application seeking for leave to commence judicial review, the 16 former Umno members sought a certiorari order to quash the decision of the Registrar of Societies's (RoS), as announced through a media statement dated March 5, 2018, to grant Umno an extension for its party elections till April 19, 2019, which exceeded the maximum period. 

The 16 former Umno members were Salihudin Ahmad Khalid, Noorhalimi Yahya, Mariam Mohd Ishak, Mohd Hafami Hanif, Saharudin Tukiman, Azaid Jani, Normalawati Hassan, Radiana Abd Manaf, Mohd Rafeek Rahim, Nurul Hanna Mohd Suhot, Kamarul Abd Wahid, Mohd Hikamal Md Hassim, Muzamzamir Abd Wahab, Norizam Jamaludin, Rohani Ahmad and Muhamad Hafizi Hashim. 

They had further sought a mandamus to compel RoS to provisionally dissolve Umno and for RoS to suspend all Umno activities pending disposal of the judicial review.

They also wanted a declaration that Umno was illegal effective April 20 last year.

On April 27, 2018, the High Court dismissed the leave application for judicial review filed by the group after allowing the preliminary objection raised by RoS. 

They lost their appeal which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Nov 5 last year.

The then High Court judge Datuk Kamaludin Mohd Said (now Court of Appeal judge) dismissed the application for leave for judicial review on grounds that Section 18C of the Societies Act stipulates that a party member cannot bring a dispute regarding the party to court.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla represented the group, while senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for RoS. — Bernama