Federal Court reserves judgement on Kota Siputeh state seat
PUTRAJAYA, June 20 — The Federal Court will rule on whether Kota Siputeh assemblyman Datuk Abu Hassan Sarif’s absenteeism from the Kedah legislative assembly twice amounted to his absence from two consecutive meetings, thus rendering his seat vacant.
A five-man panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin reserved their judgment on the matter after hearing submissions in the appeal by Kedah Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Dr Abdul Isa Ismail against a Court of Appeal decision reinstating Abu Hassan as Kota Siputeh assemblyman.
Justice Zulkefli said the court will not rush to deliver its decision and would give full grounds for the judgment.
Federal Court judges Datuk Hashim Mohd Yusoff, Datuk Ahmad Maarop, Datin Paduka Zaleha Zahari and Datuk Zainun Ali comprise the rest of the panel.
Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah and Datuk Hafarizam Harun represented Dr Abdul Isa and Abu Hassan respectively while senior federal counsel Amarjeet Singh appeared for the Election Commission (EC).
Sulaiman said the Court of Appeal erred in its interpretation of Article 51 of the Kedah State Constitution by importing the word “session” into the definition and concluding that Abu Hassan was not absent for two consecutive meetings, thereby not rendering his seat vacant.
Article 51 states that the seat of a Legislative Assembly member shall become vacant if they are absent from the Assembly without the speaker’s leave for two consecutive meetings.
He said Article 51 did not state that the two consecutive meetings must be held in the same session.
“If the Legislature had intended that the absenteeism must be in the same session, it would have inserted the words “in a session” after the phrase “two consecutive meetings”,” he said, adding that words should not be added to Article 51 where they were not intended.
The Court of Appeal concluded that the April 19 and August 9 meetings in 2009 (the fifth meeting of the first session and the first meeting of the second session respectively) that Abu Hassan was absent from were not consecutive meetings.
The Court of Appeal then reversed a High Court ruling that Abu Hassan was no longer the elected representative, and held that the July 1, 2009 proclamation form declaring the August 9, 2009 meeting as the first meeting of the second session had in fact terminated the first session of the assembly.
Sulaiman argued that since the Sultan of Kedah did not prorogue the legislative assembly, the first session continued and the August 9, 2009 meeting was in actual fact the sixth meeting of the first session.
“The speaker’s position is that Article 51 refers to any two consecutive meetings whether held in one and the same session, or in different sessions,” he stated.
Amarjeet Singh contended that the proclamation form which declared the August 9, 2009 meeting as the first meeting for the second session, was deemed to have prorogued the first session of the assembly.
Therefore, the seat did not become vacant as the two meetings did not take place in a single session.
Abdul Isa filed a judicial review to challenge the EC’s decision not to hold a by-election after he (Abdul Isa) declared Abu Hassan’s seat vacant. — Bernama