Updated 7.05pm on 11 June 2009
PUTRAJAYA, 11 June 2009: Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six state executive councillors cannot be suspended from attending the state legislative assembly for alleged contempt as the offence is not provided for under the Perak State Constitution, the Federal Court said in its written judgment of a decision it reached on 16 April 2009.
Federal Court judge Datuk Seri S Augustine Paul wrote that Article 44 of the Perak State Constitution, read together with the Standing Orders of the legislative assembly and the Legislative Assembly (Privileges) Enactment 1959, did not provide for the offence of contempt and the resultant punishment of suspension from attending sessions of the state legislative
Zambry Therefore,the suspension order of 18 months for Zambry and 12 months for the councillors made by state speaker V Sivakumar was null and void as Sivakumar had no power to do so, he said.
“The power to deal with contempts, which is not provided in the Standing Orders of the legislative assembly, is not something that the speaker can take cognizance of as it requires a law to that effect,” Paul said in his 64-page judgment dated 3 June and made available today.
On 16 April, the five-member bench led by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Alauddin Mohd Sheriff held that the suspension order by Sivakumar on Zambry and his six exco men was ultra vires the Perak state constitution.
“There must be specific legal authority to take cognizance of and punish for contempt. This is particularly significant where the alleged contempt was committed beyond the walls of the legislative assembly,” Paul said.
Sitting with Alauddin were Paul, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria and Justices Tan Sri Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and Datuk Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin.
Zambry and the six — Zainol Fadzi Paharuddin, Datuk Ramly Zahari, Hamidah Osman, Datuk Saarani Mohamad, Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid and Dr Mah Hang Soon — filed an originating summons at the Ipoh High Court on 2 March, seeking a declaration that their suspension was null and void.
In the summons, they contended that Sivakumar had, in a letter dated 11 Feb 2009, complained that Zambry was acting illegally by appointing an executive councillor contrary to the supreme law, and that the contempt had embarrassed Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, as the Perak menteri besar, and had prevented his (Nizar’s) exco from performing their duties under the Perak
Sivakumar (left) and Nizar The applicants further contended that in a letter dated 18 Feb, Sivakumar, in exercising his powers as speaker, found them guilty as charged and suspended them from attending the sessions of the state assembly for 18 months for Zambry, and 12 months for the others.
Paul, in his judgment, said: “The suspension against the applicants was done pursuant to Standing Order 72 of the legislative assembly. The summonses against them state that their acts constitute contempt. As contempt has not been specifically prescribed for, the acts cannot come within the ambit of Standing Order 72.
“Standing Order 72 authorises the Committee of Privileges to take cognizance of ‘any matter which appears to affect powers and privileges of the assembly’.
“In order for the ‘matter’ to have such an effect, it must be unlawful or be an infringement of the powers and privileges of the assembly. It is only then that it can be said that it appears to affect the powers and privileges of the assembly,” Paul reasoned.
Zambry and the six assemblypersons were represented by lead counsel Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaluddin, while counsel Sulaiman Abdullah appeared for Sivakumar. — Bernama