Apex court to hear government’s bid to appeal landmark sedition ruling

Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei (left) kept his Sri Muda state seat in Election 2013 with a whopping majority, but a sedition conviction could potentially disqualify him from holding office as a lawmaker. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei (left) kept his Sri Muda state seat in Election 2013 with a whopping majority, but a sedition conviction could potentially disqualify him from holding office as a lawmaker. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 ― The Federal Court has fixed February 21 to hear the government’s bid to appeal a previous ruling that found a Sedition Act provision to be unconstitutional, a lawyer has said.

Lawyer Raul Lee Bhaskaran, whose client Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei had previously successfully challenged the Sedition Act, confirmed the government had filed for leave to appeal at the Federal Court.

“They are appealing the Court of Appeal’s decision. The hearing for leave application is on February 21,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.

He said the government will be asking the Federal Court to revisit three questions of law, including whether Section 3(3) of the Sedition Act is ultra vires of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

“That is the main thrust of it, whether intention has to be proven for a conviction for sedition,” he added. On November 25, the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the Sedition Act’s Section 3(3) ― which states that intention of the person charged of sedition is “irrelevant and it was enough to prove their remarks had seditious tendency ― is unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeal declared that Section 3(3) is invalid as it had violated the Federal Constitution’s Article 10 – which guarantees Malaysians’ right to freedom of speech. Under Section 3(3) which the appellate court has declared unconstitutional, the prosecution does not have to prove that a person intended to commit sedition to secure a conviction, and merely has to prove the accused’s remarks or actions had seditious tendency.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of Mat Shuhaimi effectively means the prosecution now has to prove intent before a person can be convicted of sedition. Mat Shuhaimi had mounted the constitutional challenge against the Sedition Act, which was used to charge him on February 7, 2011 over his blog posting said to be made on December 30, 2010.

Mat Shuhaimi kept his Sri Muda state seat in Election 2013 with a whopping majority, but a sedition conviction could potentially disqualify him from holding office as a lawmaker. First-time offenders under the Sedition Act face a maximum three-year jail term or maximum fine of RM5,000 or both, with either a one-year jail term or a RM2,000 fine enough to make Shuhaimi lose his seat.

The ongoing trial for Mat Shuhaimi’s sedition case under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act is scheduled to resume on January 3 next year at the Sessions Court in Shah Alam. – Malay Mail Online

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