Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Section 15 of UUCA is Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal declared as unconstitutional a provision in the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971 which willfully restricts students from expressing support for or opposition against a political party. In a landmark 2-1 majority decision, the three-person panel held that Section 15 (5)(a) of the UUCA is unreasonable and violates freedom of speech (The Sun, November 01, 2011, p 01).

Justices Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus and Linton Albert allowed the appeal brought by four political science undergraduates of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) - Muhammad Hilman Idham, Woon King Chai, Muhammad Ismail Aminuddin and Azlin Shafina Mohamad Adza, dubbed the "UKM Four" - who faced disciplinary action for being involved in a political campaign for the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election on April 24 last year. [Low Hop Bing the third Court of Appeal judge dissented - he upheld the Kuala Lumpur High Court's decision on September 28 last year, that ruled Section 15 (5) of the UUCA was constitutional with the Federal Constitution].

The four did face disciplinary proceeding initiated by the university on July 04 this year. However, they were found not guilty by the board. Happily, they graduated last month.

However, lest we get into a celebratory mood, UKM is expected to appeal the decision and the Federal Court can move to agree or overturn this ruling of the Court of Appeal. But at the end of the day, it is more important for Parliament to repeal the UUCA once and for all and I support any effort by any student movement towards this end. Bring back democracy to campuses.

I am still glad about this decision because small victories are important too.

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