Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gobind’s suspension case: Dewan Rakyat speaker gets leave to appeal to Federal Court

The Federal Court will decide whether the court can interfere with the punishment imposed by Parliament on its members for misconduct.

This key constitutional point on separation of powers would be dealt by the apex court in the hearing of an appeal brought by the Dewan Rakyat speaker against a Kuala Lumpur High Court declaration that Puchong Member of Parliament Gobind Singh Deo's suspension was legal, but Parliament could not deprive him of his remuneration and other privileges.

In March this year, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision.

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In March this year, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision.

On Wednesday, the Federal Court's five-men panel led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin gave a nod to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, the Dewan Rakyat secretary, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamad Nazri Abdul Aziz and the Government, to appeal against the High Court's decision to the Federal Court.

Zulkefli said the court was unanimous in its decision to grant leave to appeal to the Dewan Rakyat speaker and three others as they had satisfied the requirement set out in Section 96 (a) and (b) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.

He said the issues raised in Gobind's suspension case was of public advantage and was the first case of its kind to be decided by the Federal Court.

He also directed the Court of Appeal judges to write their grounds of judgment.

The panel, which also comprised Federal Court judges Datuk Hashim Yusof, Datuk Ahmad Maarop, Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha, allowed three novel questions of constitutional importance raised for the first time, and of public advantage.

The questions are:

Does Article 62 (1) of Federal Constitution, read with Standing Orders 44 (8) Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat, empower Parliament to take action against any of its members, and punish with suspension without remuneration?

Does Parliament have inherent powers and jurisdiction to discipline its members on any charge or breach of the rights and privileges as a member of Parliament and contempt of the House, and whether the powers of Parliament to impose punishment to discipline its members within its walls, is absolute and exclusive?

Does the passing of a motion in Parliament constitute a proceeding in Parliament and protection by Article 63 (1) of the Federal Constitution? Gobind was suspended for one year by the House on March 16, 2009, without pay and allowances for insulting Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee and calling the then-deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak a murderer.

On April 23, 2009, he filed a suit against Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and three others, seeking a declaration that his suspension was null and void, that the proceedings and decision taken in the Dewan Rakyat culminating in the suspension, were not immune from scrutiny by the court and that the suspension was unconstitutional.

On Oct 22, 2009, High Court judge Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (now Court of Appeal judge) ordered Parliament to pay Gobind remuneration due to him and held that the federal legislature had no powers to withhold the payment.

The judge (Mohamad Ariff) had said, witholding Gobind's remuneration was against Article 64 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 64 reads, Parliament shall provide for the remuneration of members of each house.

He (Mohamad Ariff) held that based on the Dewan Rakyat's standing orders, Gobind could only be suspended from his service to the House and that his (Gobind's) duties as Puchong MP remained unaffected.

Mohamad Ariff, however, held that Gobind Singh could not challenge the suspension order by virtue of Article 63 of the Federal Constitution, which excluded the court from questioning the validity of proceedings in Parliament or by any of its committees.

Senior Federal Counsel Datin Azizah Nawawi appeared for the applicants and Karpal Singh represented Gobind Singh. - Bernama

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