Malaysian court rules part of Sedition Act unconstitutional

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysia's Court of Appeal has ruled as unconstitutional a section of the Sedition Act which states that the intention of a person charged under the Act is "irrelevant".

The decision was described by lawyers as a landmark ruling that upholds the right to free speech in the country.

The ruling could have far-reaching impact on many ongoing cases as the government often uses this Act against its critics, Malaysian media reported yesterday.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Section 3(3) of the Sedition Act violated the Federal Constitution's Article 10, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, the Malay Mail Online reported.

"We order that there be the following declaration: Section 3(3) of the Sedition Act 1948 (Act 15) contravenes Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and therefore is invalid and of no effect in law," the judgment delivered by Datuk Varghese George Varughese said, the Malay Mail reported.

The panel was chaired by Justice Datuk Lim Yee Lan and also included Justice Harminder Singh Dhaliwal.

The Star newspaper said the ruling was made after Selangor opposition assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei filed an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the Sedition Act in relation to seditious tendency and its penalty.

When approached by reporters later, Mr Mat Shuhaimi's counsel, Mr N. Surendran, said the prosecution must prove the element of intent in his client's case.

Mr Mat Shuhaimi had in February 2011 been charged in a Selangor court with posting seditious material on his blog, srimuda.blogspot.com. The posting had allegedly insulted the Sultan of Selangor.

Said Mr Surendran: "Now we have to go back to the High Court to sort out the issue as it has serious impact on all citizens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian court rules part of Sedition Act unconstitutional'. Print Edition | Subscribe