Hornbill Unleashed

May 10, 2017

End of the road for Haris Ibrahim’s challenge against EC

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

Activist and lawyer Haris Ibrahim’s attempts to get the courts to compel the Election Commission to provide details on how it reaches or makes a decision to redelineate state and federal electoral constituencies have come to a disappointing end.

This came with Federal Court, led by the top three judges in the country, ruling today that it is not proper for it to grant leave or permission for Haris to challenge the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the High Court on his challenge.

“This is not a proper case for us to answer the questions (of law proposed). Get a better case,” Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif said, in obvious reference to other existing challenges to the EC’s delimitation exercise, in dismissing Haris’ appeal.

The other two judges were Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Ma’arop.

Justice Md Raus made no order as to costs.

Haris, a voter in the Petaling Jaya Selatan constituency, wanted the EC to be compelled to provide him with the information, including maps of the proposed redelineation of each constituency, and how the EC arrived at its decisions.

He argued that while the Federal Constitution stipulates that each constituency should be about the same size with an equal number of voters, this was not done by the EC, with some constituencies being big, but having smaller numbers of voters, while other small ones have larger amounts of voters.

At present, a voter is provided details on the particular constituency where he or she is a registered voter. Furthermore, Haris contended, such information can be provided online, like the Election Commission of India does.

Article 10 on freedom of information cited

The activist, who was formerly a member of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee, filed the application in 2015, before EC decided to carry out its current redelineation exercise.

Among the questions raised by Haris’ lead counsel, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar (photo), were when the EC could initiate redelineation based on population growth or development of an area, and how much information the EC has to gather to issue a notice for the redelineation exercise to commence.

Malik said Haris was entitled to the information as part of the requirement of freedom of information under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, on freedom of expression.

He said his client’s right could be affected under the concept of universal suffrage, as some constituencies have bigger numbers of voters or bigger land areas than others.

“This affects the constitutional provision. On the face of it, there are live issues (to be litigated) and it would benefit for this court to make a pronouncement (on this matter),” Malik told the bench.

Besides Malik, the other lawyers appearing for Haris were S Raven, Surendra Ananth and Siti Nur Amirah.

Senior federal counsel Suzana Atan and Shamsul Bolhassan argued that Haris has no locus standi (legal standing) to initiate the action as the delimitation exercise had yet to occur then when he filed the application, as well as in the manner he sought relief.

Suzana said Haris claimed to represent aggrieved persons but filed the application solely and this was therefore not a class action.

“Hence, this is not a proper case for the court to grant leave,” she said.

In dismissing Haris’ appeal earlier this year, the Court of Appeal ruled that voters cannot get information from the EC on how it arrived on its process of redelineation.

Justice Zamani A Rahim, who wrote the judgment, said the absence of federal legislation on freedom of information, compared with that of India and Canada, also resulted in that such information cannot be given.

“Based on the above, (Haris’) appeal is without merit and should be refused. It is a challenge to the constitutional duties of the EC as specified under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution,” the Court of Appeal had decided.

The High Court also dismissed Haris’ judicial review application on grounds that he does not have the locus standi to initiate the originating summons to compel the EC to provide details of other constituencies.

Malik, when commenting on the Federal Court decision, said he hoped that the other pending cases can address the issues raised.

Source : @ Malaysiakini


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