|Freedom of speech not absolute, Court of Appeal rules|
|Thursday, 09 February 2012 03:24pm|
©The Star (Used by permission)
PUTRAJAYA: Although Karpal Singh as a Member of Parliament and prominent lawyer has the right to make political comments and express his views on the Constitution and laws, the rights and freedom of speech enshrined in the Federal Constitution are not absolute, the Appeals Court has ruled.
Justice Datuk Ahmad Ma'arop, in his 105-page judgment, said the freedom of speech as guaranteed in the constitution meant a person had the right to speak, write or publish anything he or she liked as long as they did not break the laws.
As such, he said, what was uttered by Karpal Singh at a press conference in 2009 regarding Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak over the political crisis in the state then, had exceeded the boundaries permitted by laws and amounted to sedition.
Ahmad further said the prosecution only needed to prove that the words uttered by Karpal Singh had the tendency to be seditious.
He said the prosecution need not prove that the words uttered had caused actual violence to take place or adverse reactions. He added that whether the words uttered by Karpal Singh were true or otherwise, were immaterial.
"In considering whether the words uttered by the respondent (Karpal Singh) were seditious or not, the views of the witnesses who heard them are not the determining factor and in actual fact, are not relevant.
"It is the court that will decide whether the words of the respondent were seditious or not," he said.
On Jan 20, Justice Ahmad, who presided over a three-man bench of the Court of Appeal, had ordered Karpal Singh to enter defence on a charge of uttering seditious words against Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak during a press conference in 2009.
The panel, which also comprised justices Datuk Clement Allan Skinner and Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali, had set aside the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision on June 11 2010 to acquit and discharge Karpal Singh from a sedition charge over the matter without calling for his defence.
Karpal Singh was charged with uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at his legal firm in Jalan Pudu Lama in Kuala Lumpur between noon and 12.30pm on Feb 6 2009.
He was alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as mentri besar of Perak by the sultan could be questioned in a court of law.
The charge under section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act carries a maximum RM5,000 fine or three years' jail, or both if convicted.
The Appeals Court, on Jan 20, had also fixed Thursday for mention of Karpal Singh's case at the High Court.
In his judgment, Justice Ahmad said the panel did not accept Karpal Singh's submission that Section 3(1)(f) of the Sedition Act 1948, which makes questioning the rights and privileges of rulers an offence, was against the Federal Constitution.
Justice Ahmad further held there there was no doubt in the panel's mind that the press conference was called with the minimum motive of hoping that what was said at it would be published.
He said Karpal Singh at the press conference had repeatedly uttered words that clearly meant that the Sultan of Perak had broken the law, did not follow the law and did not respect the law.
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