The High Court has now issued its scintillating judgment in quashing the refusal of the Home Ministry to grant a newspaper permit to the online news portal Malaysiakini.
High Court Judge Tuan Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim has delivered the latest rebuke to the Home Ministry in his grounds of judgment in the case of Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd v Home Minister & Ors.
The Judge has recognised that the right to a free press is a Constitutional right, and that it is a right and not a mere privilege as contended by the Home Ministry.
The considerations raised by the Deputy Home Minister to justify his refusal of the printing permit were all found to be without basis at all, and were irrelevant considerations.
However, the Judge said the evidence was insufficient to rule that the Deputy Minister had acted in bad faith or for an ulterior purpose.
In summation, the Judge said this:-
63. … the decision is one that is fraught with the infirmities such that is has been a perverse decision, which a reasonable person similar circumstanced as the [Deputy Minister], would not have decided the manner in which he did. The [Deputy Minister] had misconstrued the extent of his powers when he treated the power under [the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act 301)] in relation to the issuing of a printing permit as one that is a privilege, as opposed to it being a right, that has its origin entrenched in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. The decision by the [Deputy Minister] is defective for want of procedural fairness for affording no reason for the rejection of the application in as much as it has been littered with illegality, unreasonableness and in defiance of logic .. “
It is also noteworthy that in concluding his judgment, the learned Judge had to put a reminder on the role of Courts in judicial review proceedings.
The background and summary of the decision has already been explained by His Supreme Eminenceness in the Ask Lord Bobo column on 12th October 2012 (the broad outlines had been pronounced in open Court, and naturally Lord Bobo was there – HSE is omnipresent, dontcha know.)
But do read the Grounds of Judgment as well. Its well worth the read, and is here: Malaysiakini Press Permit High Court Abang Iskandar Grounds.
The Judgment is on appeal to the Court of Appeal, and we’ll update you on any further developments in due course.
[UPDATE] The Court of Appeal on 30th October 2013 dismissed the Government’s appeal. No application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court was filed by the Government, and no grounds were given by the Court of Appeal. News reports of the decision are here: