High Court Justice Azizul Azmi Adnan rules that the judicial review was “non-justiciable” as a redelineation exercise was exclusively the area of the legislature

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has denied the Selangor government’s legal challenge against the Election Commission (EC) over its redelineation exercise.

High Court Justice Azizul Azmi Adnan ruled today that the judicial review was “non-justiciable” as a redelineation exercise was exclusively the area of the legislature.

He said any intervention by the judiciary would overstep the boundary of separation of powers.

He added that prior Court of Appeal decisions had found that the EC’s recommendations on a redelineation exercise, which still had to be passed by Parliament, were not legally binding and thus did not adversely affect the state government’s legal rights.

Justice Azizul Azmi said the state government’s claim that the electoral roll was flawed, as it did not have the addresses of 136,272 voters, did not hold water, The Star Online reported.

The judge gave a detailed judgment, going over the applicant’s objection point by point, taking nearly an hour to read.

“For these reasons I dismiss the entire application with no order as to cost,” he said.

The courtroom was packed, with supporters standing in the public gallery and Opposition members including Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali and PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua.

Senior federal counsel Amarjeet Singh acted for the EC, while lawyer S Ambiga represented the state government.

The Selangor government had filed the judicial review on Oct 19 last year, naming the EC, its chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah and secretary Abdul Ghani Salleh as respondents.

It wanted the court to quash the EC’s notice and an order to direct it to publish a fresh notice on the proposed exercise.

The state government also wanted a declaration that the notice was lacking in details, leading to voters, local authorities or the state government being unable to exercise their constitutional right to file representations.

The challenge was based on claims that the EC acted unconstitutionally in the redelineation exercise by using a defective electoral roll.

Court grants stay order,  temporary pause on redelineation exercise

Meanwhile, the Malay Mail Online reports that the same court had granted the state government a stay order, which will freeze the Election Commission’s local enquiries in the state and effectively pause the entire redelineation exercise in peninsular Malaysia.

In granting the stay order on local enquiries in Selangor, Judge Azizul observed that the lack of a stay could cause the Selangor government’s lawsuit to become academic.

“I’m of the view that the balance of justice lies with the applicant and for the reason and because of the factors I have explained,” he said in delivering his decision, the news portal reported.

Immediately after losing the challenge, the state government applied for a stay of any action by the EC to complete its redelineation process in Selangor until it exhausts its appeal through the courts.

Local enquiries — which are where the EC hears objections from the public, local authorities, state government —  must be held before the EC can conclude its redelineation process.

Justice Azizul noted that the Selangor government’s lawsuit was “unprecedented in constitutional history” and would have “far-reaching consequences”, further pointing out his opinion that the courts would have no jurisdiction to hear a challenge once the EC submits its report on its proposed redelineation exercise to the prime minister.

“Once the report is submitted to the prime minister, the Selangor government’s appeal would be rendered nugatory,” the judge said.

Despite acknowledging that the EC which is established under the Federal Constitution would have its constitutional functions would be encumbered, the judge pointed out this was merely temporary in nature.

“A stay granted by the court would result in a clog on its ability to perform its constitutional function.

“Such clog however is a temporary one and EC has until September 2018 to finish its redelineation exercise,” he said, referring to the constitutional provision which sets a two-year timeline for the EC to complete a redelineation exercise.

Latheefa Koya, another lawyer representing the Selangor government, said the stay order would mean that the EC could not rush its redelineation exercise.

“We are glad they can’t rush into the process. Status quo [remains],” she said, pointing out that the EC could still continue its redelineation process later on if it wins against the Selangor government in the higher courts.