Penang court sets Oct 6 for decision on bid to amend anti-party hopping suit

The Penang High Court will deliver its decision amendments to four assemblymen's originating summons regarding the state assembly's demand that their seats be vacated. – Wikipedia pic, September 14, 2022.

THE Penang High Court will decide whether to allow amendments to the case relating to four assemblymen who filed an originating summons against the Penang assembly over passing a motion to vacate their seats, on October 6. 

Judicial Commissioner Azizan Md Arshad set the date after hearing oral submissions by both parties today over the assemblymen’s application to amend their summons.

“The decision will be delivered via email to both parties on October 6, with an e-review for further instructions about the summons, since both lawyers are based in Kuala Lumpur,” he said. 

During the hearing, lawyer D.P. Naban, who represented the assemblymen, said the application was filed on grounds that the state’s anti-party hopping law is not constitutional. 

“It infringes on their freedom of speech because if they were to speak differently, they may be expelled by their party and have to vacate their seat under Article 14A(1) of the Penang constitution,” he said. 

Lawyer Surendra Ananth, who is representing the defendants – the Penang assembly and its speaker Law Choo Kiang – told the court that if the amendment to the summons is allowed, it would further delay the case and the summons hearing. 

He also said this is a tactical manoeuvre to delay the case. 

In 2020, the four assemblymen – Zulkifli Ibrahim (Sungai Acheh), Afif Bahardin (Seberang Jaya), Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq (Bertam) and Zolkifly Md Lazim (Telok Bahang) – had filed the summons against the two defendants to challenge the constitutionality of Article 14A(1) of the Penang constitution, and to stop their four seats from being declared vacant under Article 14A(1). 

Article 14A of the state constitution stipulates that a state assemblyman should vacate his seat if he resigns, is stripped of his membership, ceases to be a politician, or is chosen as a candidate by another political party. 

On April 12 this year, Azizan allowed the defendant’s application to refer questions to the Federal Court to hear and decide on the constitutionality of the state’s anti-hopping enactment. 

The assembly and its speaker wanted the Federal Court to decide on the question of whether Article 14A of the Penang constitution is void as it is inconsistent with Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution. 

The Federal Court on August 3 ruled that Article 14A of the Penang constitution is valid and consistent with Article 10(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution. – Bernama, September 14, 2022.

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