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Monday, January 30, 2023

Umno purge can be challenged in court, ROS - legal experts


Those affected by the recent Umno purge may seek action from the Registrar of Societies (ROS) or challenge the decision in court, according to law experts.

This is after those axed or suspended claimed not to have been accorded due process to defend themselves against charges of breaching party discipline.

When contacted, Pasir Gudang MP and lawyer Hassan Abdul Karim said that the purge might have contravened Section 18C of the Societies Act 1966.

Section 18C states that the decision of a political party or any person authorised by it or by its constitution shall be final and conclusive and such decision shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question in any court on any ground.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim

However, Hassan said that this provision must adhere to the principles of natural justice.

As such, he said if the sacking and suspensions were done not according to the legal process, including giving the accused the right to defend themselves, Umno would have contravened the conditions provided under Section 18C.

“These omissions of the Umno leadership (would be) clearly contrary to the conditions provided under the Section 18C that emphasise the decisions must follow the interpretation of Umno constitution, rule or regulations.

“Arbitrary decisions of Umno which go against Section 18C could be challenged in court and ROS could intervene if there are complaints filed by members of Umno,” he told Malaysiakini.

For lawyer Nizam Bashir, it is a better option for those affected to sue the party in court.

However, he also opined that based on the accounts of members that due process was not followed, the party may be liable for action by the ROS.

“By all accounts, members who were sacked did not receive any prior notice, and consequently, the sackings and suspensions do not accord with the rules of natural justice as well as fall far short of what a ‘disciplinary tribunal’ is expected to abide by as a matter of law.

“What is similarly troubling is that those who sat in judgement may have been subject to the criticisms levelled by those who were sacked or even those who were suspended.

“Nevertheless, there may be valid exceptions to this principle and this may need to be ventilated in due course,” he said.

While there are grounds for those sacked or suspended to take their case to the ROS, Hassan said the ROS may take a neutral stand and not take any action.

In Friday’s purge, former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin was among those who said he was sacked without due process.

Former Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan and former Tebrau Umno chief Maulizan Bujang, who were among those slapped with a six-year suspension, also said they were not given any room to respond through the disciplinary committee.

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob had also claimed there were flaws in the party’s process to suspend and sack several of its leaders, stating that the party’s disciplinary committee did not advise Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to take such actions.

Critics have accused Zahid of weeding out rivals in the party.

Any court challenges on the grounds of Section 18C of the Societies Act, however, will be an uphill battle.

In early 2018, 16 Umno members filed a legal suit seeking to deregister the party over its decision to postpone party polls by 18 months.

The High Court and Court of Appeal, however, said that Section 18C applied and rejected the case.

An appeal was then made to the Federal Court, challenging the constitutionality of Section 18C

However, the apex court dismissed the case in March 2021, as Umno had held party elections in mid-2018, hence making the matter academic.

The court also ruled that Section 18C of the Societies Act did not breach Article 121 of the Federal Constitution on the courts’ constitutional authority.

Section 18C was legislated into the Societies Act as a response to a legal case challenging the Umno elections in 1987, which resulted in the party being deregistered in 1988. - Mkini

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