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Monday, August 28, 2017

Speaker’s ruling on seat vacancy cannot be questioned, says CJ

The court has no power to interfere in the internal management of Parliament or state assembly, says Chief Justice Raus Sharif.
Teng-Chang-KhimPUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has ruled that former Selangor State Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim’s decision to declare the Port Klang state seat vacant in 2011 could not be challenged in court.
A five-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Raus Sharif said the Speaker’s decision was non-justiciable and he was entitled to the protection of parliamentary privilege enjoyed by the state legislature under Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution and para 2 and 3 of the Schedule to Article 77 of the Selangor Constitution.
He said the Speaker was acting within the limit of the powers given under Article 69 of the state constitution when he declared the seat vacant.
“Even though the declaration was made outside the state assembly proceedings, it was inevitably connected with the essential business, and within the parameters to regulate the internal affairs of the assembly,” said Raus who delivered the judgment.
Others on the bench were justices Ahmad Maarop, Suriyadi Halim Omar, Zainun Ali and Abu Samah Nordin.
Raus said there could be no doubt that the business of Parliament and state legislative assemblies was immune from judicial interference.
“The court has no power to interfere with the internal management of Parliament or any state legislative assembly,” he said in allowing Teng’s appeal.
Raus said the immunity arose from the doctrine of separation of powers among the three principal organs of the government – the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Teng had, on Jan 19, 2011, declared at a press conference that the seat held by the then assemblyman Badrul Hisham Abdullah was vacant, on the ground that he (Badrul Hisham) had failed to attend state assembly sittings for six months without leave.
Badrul Hisham, who won the seat as a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate in the 2008 general election, left the party in October 2009 to become an independent.
The High Court had on Feb 18, 2012, however, allowed Badrul Hisham’s suit and ruled that the seat was not vacant.
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
On July 28, last year, Teng obtained leave from the Federal Court to appeal against the decision.
Today’s ruling is also a departure of two previous decisions when the court inquired into the decisions of the heads of the state assembly in Selangor and Perak.
Raus said both cases could be distinguished on the facts of each case.
Today’s judgment would likely have an impact on at least two other cases pending in court.
One concerned Sarawak Speaker Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar’s appeal against the reinstatement by the High Court of Dr Ting Tiong Choon as Pujut assemblyman.
On June 18 Justice Douglas Christo Primus Sikayun ruled the Sarawak state assembly was not a competent forum to decide on the membership of Ting.
Following the court’s decision, the Election Commission cancelled the Pujut by-election which was scheduled to be held on July 4.
Ting was disqualified in a 70-10 vote in favour of a ministerial motion in the state assembly on May 12, for having once held Australian citizenship.
The second case was brought on Aug 2 by Petaling Jaya Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian against the Dewan Rakyat Speaker and secretary for rejecting 1MDB-related questions in Parliament last month.
The two-term MP is seeking a declaration that the decision to disallow two questions addressed to the Prime Minister and Home Minister on 1MDB and businessman Jho Low was unconstitutional. - FMT

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