High Court allows Undi 18 judicial review to proceed

by AZREEN HANI/ FILE PIX

High Court today allowed the judicial review leave application by the Young Voters Association (Undi18) to compel the government to implement the lowering of the voting age to 18 by July this year.

Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid said that the applicants’ case is not frivolous nor vexatious.

“This Court should allow the matter to proceed to the substantive stage, and allow the Respondents to provide an explanation by affidavit and thereafter only decide on whether a case has been made and what reliefs are appropriate,” he said in his ruling today.

“Having considered the application, it is my opinion that the applicants have passed the leave threshold. Accordingly, this application for leave to commence judicial review proceedings is hereby allowed with no order as to costs,” he added.

The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has raised preliminary objections to the group’s judicial review application against the Prime Minister, Government of Malaysia, and the Election Commission (EC).

The AGC said that the application by Undi 18 is against the spirit of the Constitutional amendment whereby all necessary laws and regulations need to be amended before the automatic voter registration (AVR) can be enforced.

Ahmad Kamal said that the Constitutional amendments for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years old have been passed in Parliament and have received the royal assent.

“The only outstanding issue is the timing in which the same comes into effect. Based on the above, I am in agreement with the Applicants’ argument that the amendments to the relevant acts and regulations is a secondary issue which should not stand in the way for the constitutional amendment to come into effect,” he said.

In May, the government has given an assurance to implement the Undi 18 this year, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan.

He said that currently, the EC was still looking into several matters before finalising, and expected it to be implemented this July, thus enabling Malaysians aged 18 to vote in the 15th General Election.

The Undi18 group had said that the Undi18 Bill covers the amendments to Article 119 of the Federal Constitution as set out in the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019.

Section 3(a) of the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 seeks to lower the voting age from 21 years old to 18 years old, whereas Section 3(b) removes any legal obstacles for implementing AVR.

Undi18 asserts that there is no hurdle to implementing Section 3(a), and youths aged 18 to 20 years can register in the current manner without the need for AVR.

Ahmad Kamal also referred to the decision of the respondents in relation to the implementation of Section 3(a) of the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2019 which was passed by Parliament on July 16, 2019.

According to him that Order 53 Rule 2(4) of the Rules of Court 2012 allows any person who may be adversely affected by a public authority’s decision to initiate a judicial review.

Should this judicial review succeed, approximately 1.2 millions Malaysian youth aged between 18 to 20 years old will finally be given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for the first time in Malaysian history.

Meanwhile, Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai said that the High Court’s decision is an important step forward in seeking justice and voting rights for millions of youths.

“We want to see this case debated on its merits and for those in power to be compelled to justify their decision to postpone the implementation of Undi18. Let young Malaysians vote,” he said in a statement.

“We’re grateful to the High Court Judge for granting leave to these youths to review the decision by the government. This is obviously a very important case that needs to be ventilated fully,” lawyer, New Sin Yew said.

“The government must now explain on oath the exact reason for delaying the lowering of voting age and we look forward to hearing that.”