THE Court of Appeal today quashed a Home Ministry order banning four books authored by novelist Mohd Faizal Musa, 43, whose pen name is Faisal Tehrani.
A three-man panel comprising Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Ahmadi Asnawi and Zaleha Yusof found that the order issued on February 12, 2015, was not in accordance with Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
Today’s judgement was delivered by Justice Zaleha, who said the order banning the books was a restriction of Faizal’s constitutional right of freedom of speech.
“Although admittedly the right is not absolute, we agree with the learned counsel for the appellant (Faizal) that the court must nonetheless give primacy to it,” she said.
She said if certain pages of the four books were found to offend Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Act allowed for the removal of the pages.
“As such, the prohibition of the whole four books, in our considered view, is a very drastic act, irrational, unreasonable, disproportionate and tainted with procedural impropriety,” she said.
The panel, chaired by Tengku Maimun, in a unanimous decision, allowed Faizal’s appeal to set aside the High Court dismissal of his judicial review, which was filed on June 29, 2015, to challenge the ban order.
Justice Zaleha granted a certiorari order to quash the Home Ministry order and a declaration that the ban order was null and void, ultra vires Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and contravened Article 8 (1) (equality before the law) and Article 10 (1) (a) (right to freedom of speech and expression) of the federal constitution.
She also awarded RM20,000 in costs to Faizal.
In her judgment, Justice Zaleha said they had read the four books and they could not understand how the books could create public disorder or be a threat to security.
“For example, in ‘Tiga Kali Seminggu’, the short story ‘Rindu Ini Luar Biasa’ is about two people falling in love during their fight to elevate the use of Bahasa Malaysia and how position, status and power can change people’s viewpoints,” she said.
Justice Zaleha also said that by merely stating that the home minister was following the decision of the Fatwa (Edicts) Committee was not sufficient to prove that the four books were likely to be prejudicial to public order and security as the Fatwa Committee’s decision was not mentioned in the four books.
The Home Ministry had banned the four books – ‘Sebongkah Batu di Kuala Berang’, ‘Karbala’, ‘Tiga Kali Seminggu’ and ‘Ingin Jadi Nasrallah’ – authored by Faizal, stating that they were found to have allegedly contained Syiah elements and contravened the teachings of the Sunnah Wal Jamaah.
This prompted Faizal to file the judicial review application at the High Court.
Faizal was represented by lawyers Abdullah Abdul Rahman and Derrick Moh while senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for the home minister. – Bernama, January 10, 2018.