KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — In a landmark decision today, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) was in breach of the Federal Constitution.
In a majority 2-1 judgment, a three-man panel of judges ruled that Universiti Kebangaan Malaysia (UKM) breached Article 10 of the country’s highest law when it disciplined four students involved in a political campaign last year under section 15(5)(a) of the UUCA.
“Effectively, they can indulge in political activities,” lawyer Ashok Kandiah, who represented the UKM four, told The Malaysian Insiderwhen contacted.
However, it is unclear whether the judgment allows students in higher education centres to take part in political activities.
Section 15(5)(a) of the UUCA states: “No student of the University and no organisation, body or group of students of the University which is established by, under or in accordance with the Constitution, shall express or do anything which may reasonably be construed as expressing support for or sympathy with or opposition to any political party, whether in or outside Malaysia”.
The four students — Muhammad Hilman Idham, Woon King Chai, Muhammad Ismail Aminuddin and Azlin Shafina Mohamad Adza — were found campaigning for a political party during the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election in April 2010.
The four had challenged UKM in the High Court for going against Article 10, which provides for freedom of speech and expression.
But the High Court threw out their bid, prompting the four to appeal.
Court of Appeal judges Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus and Datuk Linton Albert were in favour of the UKM four but Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing, who headed the panel, dissented.
The UKM four, who have since graduated, hailed the Court of Appeal’s decision as “historic”.
“This is a historic decision, a mark in the stream of history… it involves the student struggle and public interest, “Woon told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
Cutting in, Muhammad Hilman highlighted the ruling as the first time the court had recognised the undergraduate movement.
“The judges said the younger generation must be given a chance to make decisions on their own and this has been my conviction for a long time,” Muhammad Hilman told The Malaysian Insider.
He said: “The younger generation must learn to choose and decide for themselves before deciding for the nation as the country’s future leaders.”