Constitution the ultimate guide on freedom of expression — Sonia Randhawa and Jac Kee

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) lauds today’s decision by the Court of Appeal that declared unconstitutional a Negeri Sembilan enactment that made it an offence for Muslim men to dress and behave like women.

The Court of Appeal affirmed that such a law violates Articles 5, 8, 9 and 10 of the Federal Constitution. These provisions relate to the rights to life and liberty, equality, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

This decision affirms the constitution’s position as the supreme law of the land. Article 4(1) of the constitution states that any law passed after Merdeka Day which is inconsistent with the constitution shall be void, to the extent of the inconsistency.

In this regard, CIJ also refers to the judicial review that has been filed by Sisters in Islam (SIS) regarding a gazetted Selangor fatwa. The fatwa describes SIS as promoting religious liberalism and plurality and declares SIS as being deviant from the teachings of Islam. CIJ states that it is SIS’s right to request the courts to examine the process in which the fatwa was gazetted and whether or not it is in line with the protections guaranteed by the constitution.

As with the Negeri Sembilan law regarding transgender individuals that has been declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal, fatwas also only have the force of law insofar as their provisions conform with the constitution. Should provisions restrict the freedom of expression or other fundamental liberties in ways which are overly broad and are difficult to define, such provisions can be examined by the courts with regard to their constitutionality.

As the fatwa has an impact on SIS’s freedom of expression and association and on the legality of their dealings, it is only right for SIS to seek to review the process by which the fatwa was issued, and for their own views to be heard on the matter.


* Sonia Randhawa and Jac Kee are directors for the Centre for Independent Journalism

 ** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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