High Court sets Feb 4 to decide on Muda’s application for judicial review with regards its registration

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AGC objects to Muda’s application to challenge RoS’ decision to reject its registration.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has fixed Feb 4 for its decision whether to allow Muda, led by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, to proceed with its application for a judicial review of the government’s decision not to register the party.

Judge Mariana Yahya fixed the date today after hearing arguments online by Muda’s lawyers, led by Tommy Thomas, and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), appearing for the home minister and the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly @ Arwi had earlier raised an objection against Muda’s bid to initiate a judicial review on grounds that the party should have exhausted its appeal before the home minister before going to court.

Ahmad Hanir said Muda had 30 days from Jan 6 to lodge its appeal under Section 18 of Societies Act.

Muda, through Syed Saddiq and 12 founding members, is seeking to challenge RoS’ decision to refuse to register it as a society.

Lawyers for Muda in a statement, explained that the AGC had objected to the leave on the basis that the remedy of appeal against the RoS’ decision to the minister had not been exhausted.

“We contended that, through various representations, the minister had essentially pre-judged the matter and therefore it would be of no utility to appeal to him. Further, and in any event, the court is not precluded from considering this matter at the substantive stage,” the statement said.

On Jan 12, the 13 applicants filed their application for leave for a judicial review by naming RoS and the Home Minister as the first and second respondents to seek an order to cancel RoS’ decision in refusing to register Muda as a political party under Section 7 of the Societies Act 1966.

Syed Saddiq, who is also former Bersatu’s Armada chief, in his supporting affidavit, said they received the letter from RoS on Jan 6, which stated that Muda’s application did not meet the First Schedule of the Societies Act 1966 and that the application was rejected in accordance with Section 7 (3) (e) of the Act.

“There is an omission from the RoS to explain in detail the small paragraph or provision under the First Schedule, which is not complied with by Muda. We could not find out about the alleged non-compliance and could not correct it.

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“Muda has fully complied with all the provisions of the First Schedule of the Societies Act 1966. Therefore, there is no basis to reject the Muda registration application,” he said.

In an affidavit filed to support the lawsuit, Syed Saddiq listed the chronology of events in Muda’s bid to be recognised officially as a political party, starting with Muda’s September 17, 2020, written application to the RoS, followed by a meeting with the RoS on September 28 at the latter’s invitation.

Syed Saddiq said RoS Societies’ Management Department’s director Mohd Rejab Ramli had at the meeting said changes needed to be made to Muda’s proposed constitution before its registration as a political party could be approved, with Muda on October 6 submitting a revised party constitution and informing RoS that it would provide full cooperation to speed up the registration process.

Syed Saddiq said that there was still no updates from RoS by early November, and that he had on November 3 morning met with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin in Parliament to ask about Muda’s registration, claiming that Hamzah had then asked him to write a letter to ask for his assistance instead of just relying on the official route of registration through RoS.

Syed Saddiq said Hamzah’s political secretary on November 10 informed him that Muda’s November 3 letter to Hamzah had been forwarded to RoS along with a note for RoS to take note, and that Muda had provided bankruptcy searches of all its 13 co-founders to RoS on November 25 as requested by the RoS.

Syed Saddiq said that the “true reason” for Hamzah’s refusal to allow RoS to register Muda as a political party was shown by the remarks he had made to Syed Saddiq.

“In consequence, neither the RoS nor the minister exercised their statutory duties under the Act in good faith,” he said, adding that both Hamzah and the RoS had taken into account irrelevant factors while disregarding relevant considerations, further arguing that this made the January 6 rejection invalid in law.

Alternatively, Syed Saddiq argued that both Hamzah and the RoS had acted so unreasonably that no other authority would have acted in the same manner, arguing that this was a ground for the court to declare the rejection as invalid.

Syed Saddiq, in his affidavit seen by FMT, alleged that Hamzah Zainudin had “enticed” him to support Perikatan Nasional if he wanted Muda’s registration to be approved.

He claimed Hamzah went on to say that even if he (Syed Saddiq) opposed government bills, he should stay away from the Dewan Rakyat when voting took place.

“I was shocked. I replied that I cannot abdicate my duty as an MP and will always vote in accordance with my conscience and the interest of my constituents,” he said in the affidavit.

Also in his affidavit, Syed Saddiq had highlighted how Muda and its supporters had been deprived of having a political party to exercise their rights to join in Malaysia’s political and democratic process, noting as an example that election laws would disallow Muda from using its party logo for its candidates in the next general election (GE15) if it was not registered by the RoS.