KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 3): The High Court today declared that the one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting that was limited to just the address by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on May 18 this year was valid and in accordance with the law.
Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid pointed to Article 55(1) of the Federal Constitution which states that the Parliament shall reconvene not more than six months from the last sitting, as was the case for the May 18 sitting.
“In this present case, the Parliament did reconvene within six months from the last sitting (which was) on December 19 last year.
“I am of the considered view that the Parliament may sit for any number of days, sittings, meetings, as the Federal Constitution, especially Article 55(1), does not specify the specific period Parliament must be convened for,” he said.
In May this year, Lawyer R Kenghadaran and activist D Arumugam named Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and then Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof as defendants in the application filed at the High Court by Messrs T Gunaseelan and Associates.
The duo argued that the notice for the sitting issued through a letter was unconstitutional and violated the Standing Orders.
This, they said, is because a proceeding that would only see the royal address does not fulfil Article 55(1) of the Federal Constitution.
However, Justice Ahmad Kamal quashed that argument today by saying he did not find the sitting illegal.
“It is no doubt that the one-day sitting is unusual and unprecedented but to me it is not something illegal but legal in the face of the law,” he said.
Article 55(1) states: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall from time to time summon Parliament and shall not allow six months to elapse between the last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first meeting in the next session.
The judge also added that in accordance with the parliamentary Standing Order 11(2), the Prime Minister who is the leader of the house and government has the responsibility to determine sitting dates of parliament and can vary the dates from time to time.
“I find that two letters from the leader of the house (to the secretary of the house) which had fixed May 18 as the only day for Parliamentary siting and that it was only to hear the royal address by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the danger of the Covid-19 pandemic is fair and reasonable,” he said.
He also said the decision of the government to have the one-day sitting considering the current global Covid-19 pandemic was reasonable and valid “as the government has every right to protect the lives of the members of the house from the risk of the Covid-19 pandemic, to avoid creating another cluster and to avoid the risk of spreading of the Covid-19”.
“I am not agreeable with the contention by the plaintiffs that the one-day sitting is merely a fig leaf,” he said.
He also added that the proceedings of the Dewan Rakyat and the business of Parliament are immune from judicial interference as stipulated under Article 63 of the Federal Constitution.
The judge then proceeded to dismiss the application from the plaintiffs.
Kenghadaran and Arumugam told reporters after proceedings that they will be appealing the High Court’s decision in the near future.
Edited by Surin Murugiah