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Basic Structure Revisited: The Case of Semenyih Jaya and the Defence of Fundamental Constitutional Principles in Malaysia

  • Wilson Tze Vern TAY (a1)

Abstract

In Semenyih Jaya v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat, the Federal Court of Malaysia asserted that the Federal Constitution continues to vest a distinct and independent judicial power in the judiciary notwithstanding earlier constitutional amendments, and also gave substantive effect to the ‘basic structure doctrine’ for the first time in Malaysia. This has contributed significantly to the long-standing discussion of whether, and to what extent, the ‘basic structure doctrine’ applies in Malaysia. Situating that landmark decision within the context of the evolving judicial practice in Malaysia and other jurisdictions on the ‘Westminster model’, this article evaluates the extent to which Semenyih Jaya has contributed towards strengthening constitutionalism and the rule of law in Malaysia. Considering that the apex court stopped short of directly invalidating the relevant constitutional amendments, this article argues that Semenyih Jaya represents a sophisticated modification of the ‘basic structure doctrine’ to fit the current context of Malaysian constitutionalism. This article also examines how Semenyih Jaya advances the ‘constitutional dialogue’ between the judiciary and its co-equal branches of government, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the approach taken by the Federal Court in that case.

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LLB (UCL), LLM (NUS), Advocate & Solicitor (Malaya). PhD Candidate, National University of Singapore. I am grateful to Professor Andrew James Harding and Dr Dian AH Shah for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers selected by the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, who provided very useful suggestions for improvement. Participants at the 7th Asian Constitutional Law Forum in Bangkok, where this paper was presented, also provided constructive feedback and suggestions. All errors and omissions remain strictly my own. The law herein is stated as of 30 April 2018.

Footnotes

References

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1. Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim v Menteri Dalam Negeri Malaysia [2007] 1 CLJ 19, [7] (Court of Appeal).

2. See eg Vinx (tr), Lars, The Guardian of the Constitution: Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt on the Limits of Constitutional Law (CUP 2015) 175 .

3. See Marbury v Madison (1803) 1 Cranch 137 (US Supreme Court), which established the revolutionary – albeit perennially controversial – concept of judicial review over the constitutionality of legislation.

4. See eg Allan, TRS, Law, Liberty and Justice: The Legal Foundations of British Constitutionalism (Clarendon Press 1993) 5051 ; Barendt, Eric, An Introduction to Constitutional Law (OUP 1998) 4 ; Corstens, Geert, Understanding the Rule of Law (Hart Publishing 2017) 19 .

5. Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1957 (Federal Constitution), art 121(1). In Robert Linggi v The Government of Malaysia [2011] 2 MLJ 741, 764–767 (High Court of Malaya), it was observed that the consent of the State Governors of Sabah and Sarawak had been obtained for the amendments to art 121(1), as required under art 161E(2)(b).

6. See eg Public Prosecutor v Kok Wah Kuan [2008] 1 MLJ 1, 15 (Federal Court).

7. See eg Danaharta Urus Sdn Bhd v Kekatong Sdn Bhd [2004] 2 MLJ 257, 270 (Federal Court).

8. See eg Pihak Berkuasa Negeri Sabah v Sugumar Balakrishnan [2002] 3 MLJ 72 (Federal Court) in which the Federal Court upheld a blanket ouster clause in the Immigration Act 1959/1963 that insulated decisions of the Director-General of Immigration from judicial review; Danaharta Urus (n 7) where the same court upheld an ouster clause shielding a national special-purpose investment agency from judicial review, even in cases where the constitutional right to property appeared to have been infringed; Kok Wah Kuan (n 6) involving legislation (the Child Act 2001) that effectively confers on the executive branch the power to determine the length of incarceration of juvenile offenders convicted of capital crimes.

9. [2017] 3 MLJ 561 (Federal Court).

10. ibid [54], [86].

11. ibid [74]–[76].

12. See His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461, (1973) 4 SCC 1461; Minerva Mills Ltd v Union of India, AIR 1980 SC 1789, (1980) 3 SCC 625. On the operation of the doctrine in India and its justifications, see Krishnaswamy, Sudhir, Democracy and Constitutionalism in India: A Study of the Basic Structure Doctrine (2nd impression, OUP 2011) .

13. See Part IV below.

14. See eg Roach, Kent, ‘Dialogic Judicial Review and its Critics’ (2004) 23 Supreme Court Law Review 49, 54 ; Tushnet, Mark, ‘Dialogic Judicial Review’ (2008) 61 Arkansas Law Review 205 ; Yap, Po-Jen, Constitutional Dialogue in Common Law Asia (OUP 2015) .

15. de Smith, SA, ‘Constitutionalism in the Commonwealth Today’ (1962) 4 Malaya Law Review 205, 205 ; see also eg Ah Thian v Government of Malaysia [1976] 2 MLJ 112, 113 (Federal Court); Loh Kooi Choon v Government of Malaysia [1977] 2 MLJ 187, 188 (Federal Court).

16. Friedrich, Carl J, Limited Government: A Comparison (Prentice Hall 1974) 12 .

17. Jennings, Ivor, The Law and The Constitution (5th edn, University of London Press 1969) 728 ; Barendt, Eric, ‘Separation of Powers and Constitutional Government’ [1995] Public Law 599 ; Redish, Martin H, The Constitution as Political Structure (OUP 1995) 106; MJC Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers (2nd edn, Liberty Fund 1998) 350 . Also, as the Baron de Montesquieu famously cautioned: ‘there would be an end to everything, were the same man, or the same body ... to exercise those three powers – that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the cause of individuals’; de Montesquieu, Charles Baron, The Spirit of the Laws (T Nugent tr, Hafner 1949) Book XI, ch 6.

18. Wynes, W Anstey, Legislative, Executive and Judicial Powers in Australia (4th edn, Law Book Company 1970) 395 .

19. Huddart Parker Pty Ltd v Moorehead [1909] HCA 36, (1908-1909) 8 CLR 330, 357 (Griffith CJ); endorsed in Public Prosecutor v Dato’ Yap Peng [1987] 2 MLJ 311 (Supreme Court). The Federal Court was renamed as the Supreme Court from 1985 until 1994, when it reverted once more to its original name.

20. Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19) 325.

21. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co v Sawyer (1952) 343 US 579 (US Supreme Court).

22. Lord Diplock, ‘Judicial Control of Government’ [1979] 2 MLJ cxl, cxlii.

23. For a discussion of the historical evolution of Malaysia, see Fong, JC, Constitutional Federalism in Malaysia (Sweet & Maxwell 2008) chs 1, 2; Harding, Andrew, The Constitution of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis (Hart Publishing 2012) ch 1.

24. See eg Arkib Negara Malaysia [National Archives of Malaysia], ‘Pemasyhuran Kemerdekaan 1957 [Proclamation of Independence 1957]’ (Arkib Negara) <www.arkib.gov.my/web/guest/pemasyhuran-kemerdekaan-19571> accessed 30 April 2018 (emphasis added).

25. Merdeka Day refers to the day the Federation of Malaya became independent, ie 31 August 1957.

26. See eg Ah Thian (n 15); Mamat bin Daud v Government of Malaysia [1988] 1 MLJ 119 (Supreme Court); Harding, Andrew, Law, Government and the Constitution in Malaysia (Kluwer Law International 1996) 47 ; Jewa, Tunku Sofiah et al (eds), Tun Mohamed Suffian’s An Introduction to the Constitution of Malaysia (3rd edn, Pacifica 2007) ch 2; Hamzah, Wan Arfah, A First Look at the Malaysian Legal System (Oxford Fajar 2009) 4 .

27. Ah Thian (n 15) 113.

28. Federal Constitution, arts 39, 44, and 121(1).

29. Bagehot, Walter, The English Constitution (Collins 1963) 65 .

30. Loh Kooi Choon (n 15) 188.

31. Federal Constitution, art 121(1); Courts of Judicature Act 1964, ss 22–37, Schedule para 1.

32. Federal Constitution, art 121(1B); Courts of Judicature Act 1964, ss 50–69.

33. Federal Constitution, arts 128(1) and 128(2) provide for instances in which the Federal Court may exercise original jurisdiction; art 130 provides for its advisory jurisdiction whenever its opinion on the effect of any of provision of the Constitution is sought by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (acting on ministerial advice).

34. Federal Constitution, art 122B(1)-(4); Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2009 (Act 695), ss 22–28.

35. Federal Constitution, arts 125(1), 125(2), and 125(7).

36. Federal Constitution, art 127.

37. Courts of Judicature Act 1964, s 14(1).

38. Federal Constitution, art 125(2)-(5).

39. For excellent accounts of the ‘1988 judicial crisis’ see Harding (n 23) 207-223; Abas, Tun Mohamed Salleh and Das, K, May Day for Justice (Magnus 1989) ; Trindade, FA, ‘The Removal of the Malaysian Judges’ (1990) 106 Law Quarterly Review 51 ; Harding, Andrew, ‘The 1988 Constitutional Crisis in Malaysia’ (1990) 39 International & Comparative Law Quarterly 57 ; Lee, HP, Constitutional Conflicts in Contemporary Malaysia (OUP 1995) 5377 ; Sinnadurai, Visu, ‘The 1988 Judiciary Crisis and Its Aftermath’, in Andrew Harding and HP Lee (eds), Constitutional Landmarks in Malaysia: The First 50 Years (LexisNexis 2007) ch 13.

40. Subordinate Courts Act 1948, ss 60, and 78A.

41. Federal Constitution, art 159.

42. ibid arts 159(5), and 161E(2). The Conference of Rulers consists of the nine hereditary Rulers of the Malay States, plus, in limited circumstances, the non-hereditary Governors of the other four States; see art 38, read together with the Fifth Schedule.

43. Harding, The Constitution of Malaysia (n 23) 103.

44. Faruqi, Shad Saleem, Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia (Star Publications 2008) 82 , 90; Thomas, Tommy, Abuse of Power: Selected Works on the Law and Constitution (SIRD Centre 2016) 56 .

45. Mohamed, Mahathir, The Malay Dilemma (Federal Publications 1982) 11 .

46. See eg JP Berthelsen v Director General of Immigration [1987] 1 MLJ 134 (Supreme Court); Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara v Minister of Home Affairs [1988] 1 MLJ 440 (High Court of Malaya); Karpal Singh v Minister for Home Affairs [1988] 1 MLJ 468 (High Court of Malaya); Lim Kit Siang v Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad [1987] 1 MLJ 383 (Supreme Court); Government of Malaysia v Lim Kit Siang [1988] 2 MLJ 12 (Supreme Court) (also popularly known as ‘the UEM case’). On the link between these cases and the executive’s decision to table the amendments, see Yatim, Rais, Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia: A Study of Executive Supremacy (Endowment Sdn Bhd 1995) 100 .

47. Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19).

48. Federal Constitution, art 121(1); see also Appendix 1 below.

49. House of Representatives (Malaysia), ‘Parliamentary Debates, Seventh Parliament, Session 2, Vol 2’ (17 March 1988) 1353 (translated from Malay).

50. ibid (emphasis added).

51. ibid 1355–56.

52. House of Representatives (Malaysia), ‘Parliamentary Debates, Seventh Parliament, Session 2, Vol 2’ (18 March 1988) 1576-1577 (translated from Malay) (emphasis added).

53. Pepper v Hart [1992] UKHL 3, [1993] AC 593; endorsed in the Malaysian case of Chor Phaik Har v Farlim Properties Sdn Bhd [1994] 3 MLJ 345 (Federal Court).

54. Richard SK Foo, ‘Malaysia – Death of a Separate Constitutional Judicial Power’ [2010] Singapore Journal of Legal Studies 227, 236. This point was also emphasized, in the context of the Singapore Constitution, in Mohammad Faizal bin Sabtu v Public Prosecutor [2012] SGHC 163, [2012] 4 SLR 947, [15] (Chan Sek Keong CJ).

55. See eg Harding, Law, Government and the Constitution in Malaysia (n 26) 134; Aun, Wu Min, ‘The Malaysian Judiciary: Erosion of Confidence’ (1999) 1(2) Australian Journal of Asian Law 124 ; Aun, Wu Min and Hickling, RH, Hickling’s Malaysian Public Law (Pearson 2003) xxv ; Shah, Sultan Azlan, ‘The Role of Constitutional Rulers and the Judiciary Revisited’ in Visu Sinnadurai (ed), Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance (Professional Law Books 2004) 385 .

56. Foo (n 54) 248.

57. See eg Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19); cf the post-1988 approach in Danaharta Urus (n 7).

58. Especially cases involving constitutional judicial review of legislation, or judicial review of executive action based on alleged infringement of constitutional principles; see eg Liyanage v The Queen [1965] UKPC 39, [1967] 1 AC 259; Hinds v The Queen [1975] UKPC 22, [1977] AC 195.

59. In Australia, this principle has been judicially affirmed in In re the Judiciary Act 1903-1920 and In re the Navigation Act 1912-1920 [1921] HCA 20, (1921) 29 CLR 257; R v Kirby, ex p Boilermakers’ Society of Australia [1956] HCA 10, [1956] 94 CLR 254, affirmed by the Privy Council, Attorney-General (Commonwealth) v The Queen [1957] UKPCHCA 1, (1957) 95 CLR 529.

60. [1998] 3 MLJ 289 (Court of Appeal).

61. Sugumar Balakrishnan (n 8).

62. Danaharta Urus (n 7).

63. ibid 270 (emphasis added).

64. Kok Wah Kuan (n 6).

65. ibid 14.

66. ibid 15.

67. ibid 16–17.

68. ibid (emphasis added).

69. See House of Representatives (n 52).

70. See eg Tommy Thomas (n 44) 200.

71. Kok Wah Kuan (n 6) 20–21.

72. ibid.

73. ibid 21 (Richard Malanjum CJSS).

74. See eg Nik Noorhafizi bin Nik Ibrahim v Public Prosecutor [2013] 6 MLJ 660 (Court of Appeal), which illustrates a spirited defence of judicial power, but in a dissenting opinion by Hamid Sultan JCA; Nik Nazmi bin Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor [2014] 4 MLJ 157, 194-196 (Court of Appeal), which is another well-reasoned defence of judicial power, but in purely obiter remarks by Hamid Sultan JCA; and Public Prosecutor v Gan Boon Aun [2017] 3 MLJ 12 (Federal Court), where the infringement of constitutional judicial power raised as a possible ground for impugning legislation; the question was not addressed as the Federal Court resolved the case on other grounds.

75. [2014] 6 MLJ 812, 826 (Federal Court).

76. Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia [2010] 2 MLJ 333, 342 (Federal Court); Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 591; Yong Vui Kong v PP [2015] SGCA 11, [2015] 2 SLR 1129, [69]; Ravi s/o Madasamy v Attorney-General [2017] SGHC 163, [2017] 5 SLR 489, 515; Kesavananda Bharati (n 12). See also Chan Sek Keong, ‘Basic Structure and Supremacy of the Singapore Constitution’ (2017) 29 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 619, 620. Furthermore, it is theoretically likely that the implied limitations imposed by the ‘basic structure doctrine’ on the amending power of the legislature also extend to other constitutional actors vested with the power of amendment (such as the executive branch, by way of executive decree during a state of emergency; see eg Federal Constitution, art 150(2C)), but this point has not yet been the subject of any judicial decision in Malaysia.

77. Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland [Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany], art 79(3) establishes that the ‘basic principles’ of democracy in Germany, such as its federal structure and the fundamental human rights enshrined in arts 1 and 20, cannot be amended under any circumstances. The Undang-Undang Dasar Republik Indonesia 1945 [Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia 1945] ch XVI, art 37 also provides that the unitary status of the Indonesian state cannot be amended even by using the constitutional amendment procedure.

78. Roznai, Yaniv, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: The Limits of Amendment Powers (OUP 2017) .

79. (n 12).

80. ibid.

81. (1999) 2 Supp SCR 394 (Supreme Court).

82. Government of the State of Kelantan v Government of the Federation of Malaya and Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (1963) 29 MLJ 355 (Federal Court), in which the State of Kelantan challenged the decision of the Federal Government to merge the Federation of Malaya into Malaysia by extensively amending the then Malayan Constitution, without obtaining the prior approval of each of the constituent States of Malaya.

83. Loh Kooi Choon (n 15); Phang Chin Hock v Public Prosecutor [1980] 1 MLJ 70 (Federal Court).

84. See Andrew Harding, ‘The Death of A Doctrine? Phang Chin Hock v Public Prosecutor’ (1979) 21 Malaya Law Review 365; Sharon K Chahil, ‘A Critical Evaluation of the Constitutional Protection of Fundamental Liberties: The Basic Structure Doctrine and Constitutional Amendment in Malaysia’ [2002] 3 MLJ xii.

85. Gopal Sri Ram, ‘The Dynamics of Constitutional Interpretation’ [2017] 4 MLJ i, xxvi: ‘They (the judges) had no crystal ball to know that a non-lawyer would come to rule who had as much respect for our Constitution or the rule of law as a discarded prescription given by a doctor.’

86. Sivarasa Rasiah (n 76).

87. ibid 342.

88. See eg Jamil bin Harun v Yang Kamsiah [1984] 1 MLJ 217 (Privy Council); indeed, most Federal Court judgments are regularly seen to cite numerous English authorities even to this day.

89. (n 58).

90. ibid.

91. [1964] UKPC 20, [1965] AC 172.

92. Hinds (n 58) 212.

93. ibid 213; Liyanage (n 58) 287–288 (emphasis added).

94. Hinds (n 58) 214 (emphasis added).

95. (n 91) 198. This was cited by the Malaysian Supreme Court in Phang Chin Hock v Public Prosecutor, as justifying its refusal to apply the ‘basic structure doctrine’; see (n 83) 73–74.

96. Seepersad v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2012] UKPC 4, [2013] 1 AC 659.

97. DPP, Jamaica v Mollison [2003] UKPC 6, [2003] 2 AC 411, [13] (Lord Bingham of Cornhill). See also R (Anderson) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2002] UKHL 46, [2003] 1 AC 837, [50] (Lord Steyn).

98. Seepersad (n 96) [23] (Lord Sumption).

99. [2006] UKPC 13, [2007] 1 AC 80.

100. See the discussion in Part I(D) above.

101. Kesavananda (n 12) (per Khanna J).

102. Dietrich Conrad, Limitation of Amendment Procedures and the Constituent Power (Indian Year Book of International Affairs 1966-1967) 375–430.

103. See eg Krishnaswamy (n 12); Murphy, Walter F, ‘Merlin’s Memory: The Past and Future Imperfect of the Once and Future Polity’ in Sanford Levinson (ed), Responding to Imperfection: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment (Princeton University Press 1995) 163 ; Ramachandran, Raju, ‘The Supreme Court and the Basic Structure Doctrine’ in BN Kirpal et al (eds), Supreme But Not Infallible (OUP 2000) 107 ; Muigai, Githu, ‘Towards a Theory of Constitutional Amendment’ (2003) 1 East African Journal of Human Rights & Democracy 1 .

104. Anwar Hossain Chowdhury v Bangladesh [1989] 18 CLC (AD) (Supreme Court of Bangladesh).

105. Constitution Petition nos 12, 13, 18, 20, 22, 31, 35, 36, 39, 40, 42, and 44 of 2010 (Supreme Court, 5 August 2015) <www.supremecourt.gov.pk/web/user_files/File/Const.P.12of2010.pdf> accessed 29 October 2017.

106. Anwar Hossain Chowdhury (n 104) [445], [497].

107. The majority judgment was given by Justice Azmat Saaed, with whom Justices Anwar Jamali, Sarmad Osmany, Amir Hani Muslim, Gulzar Ahmed, Mushir Alam, Umar Bandial, and Maqbool Baqar concurred.

108. Derek O’Brien, ‘The Basic Structure Doctrine and the Courts of the Commonwealth Caribbean’ (UK Constitutional Law Association, 28 May 2013) <https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2013/05/28/derek-obrien-the-basic-structure-doctrine-and-the-courts-of-the-commonwealth-caribbean/> accessed 30 April 2018.

110. ibid [119]–[120].

111. Belize Constitution (Eighth Amendment) Act 2011.

112. Claim no 597 of 2011 (Supreme Court of Belize, 11 June 2012).

113. ibid [50], [85].

114. Mohammad Faizal bin Sabtu (n 54) [16] (emphasis added).

115. [2011] SGCA 9, [2011] 2 SLR 1189, [31]. In Cheong Seok Leng v PP [1988] SGHC 48, [1988] 1 SLR(R) 530 the High Court reiterated that the Singapore Constitution is based on the separation of powers, and in the landmark case of Chng Suan Tze v Minister for Home Affairs [1988] SGCA 16, [1988] 2 SLR(R) 525, [86] the Court of Appeal famously emphasized that ‘all power has legal limits and the rule of law demands that the courts should be able to examine the exercise of discretionary power’. For other instances of the Singapore courts’ approach to ouster clauses see Stansfield Business International Pte Ltd v Minister for Manpower [1999] SGHC 183, [1999] 2 SLR(R) 866, [21]–[22]; Re Raffles Town Club Pte Ltd [2008] SGHC 46, [2008] 2 SLR(R) 1101, [5], [8]. For an academic critique of such ouster clauses in Singapore, see Thio Li-ann, ‘Law and the Administrative State’ in Kevin YL Tan (ed), The Singapore Legal System (2nd edn, Singapore University Press 1999) 195.

116. Mohammad Faizal bin Sabtu (n 54) [17].

117. ibid [11].

118. Teo Soh Lung v Minister for Home Affairs [1989] SGHC 108, [1989] 2 MLJ 449, 456–457.

119. Chan Sek Keong (n 76) 622, 637, 666.

120. Emphasis added.

121. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 580.

122. Danaharta Urus (n 7).

123. See the discussion in Parts I and II above.

124. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 598.

125. ibid 589-590.

126. Minister of Home Affairs v Fisher [1979] UKPC 21, [1980] AC 319; Dato Menteri Othman bin Baginda v Dato Ombi Syed Alwi bin Syed Idrus [1981] 1 MLJ 29 (Federal Court).

127. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 589.

128. ibid 590.

129. ibid 591. For the link between this case and the Kesavananda doctrine see 593.

130. ibid 592.

131. ibid 593.

132. ibid.

133. ibid 594–595.

134. ibid 585.

135. ibid 595–597.

136. ibid 600–601. The use of ‘prospective overruling’ is neither new nor controversial in the context of Malaysia; see eg Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19); Public Prosecutor v Mohd Radzi bin Abu Bakar [2005] 6 MLJ 393 (Federal Court).

137. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 599.

138. ibid.

139. ibid.

140. Arahan Amalan Hakim Besar Malaya Bil 1 Tahun 2017 (issued on 6 June 2017).

141. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 603.

142. ibid. But note the gradually disappearing distinction between ‘errors of law’ and ‘errors of fact’ in English law following Anisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission [1968] UKHL 6, [1969] 2 AC 147; In re Racal Communications [1980] UKHL 5, [1981] AC 374; O’Reilly v Mackman [1983] UKHL 1, [1983] 2 AC 237. This is an issue of administrative law that will likely develop in Malaysia if the Court’s reasoning with regard to s 40D(3) germinates.

143. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 610. The procedural non-compliance here was that the High Court Judge had made no reference to any opinion of the assessors in disallowing the applicant’s claims, and gave no reasons of his own either.

144. Syarikat Kenderaan Melayu Kelantan v Transport Workers’ Union [1995] 2 MLJ 317 (Court of Appeal); Hoh Kiang Ngan v Mahkamah Perusahaan Malaysia [1995] 3 MLJ 369 (Federal Court). See also Anisminic Ltd (n 142); In Re Application by Yee Yut Ee [1977-1978] SLR(R) 49, 494–495 (High Court, Singapore); In re Racal Communications (n 142); Plaintiff S157/2002 v Commonwealth (2003) 211 CLR 476, [101]–[104] (High Court of Australia); Kirk v Industrial Court (New South Wales) (2010) 239 CLR 531 (High Court of Australia); Chan Sek Keong, ‘Judicial Review: From Angst to Empathy’ (2010) 22 Singapore Academy of Law Journal 469, 475–476.

145. Surendra Ananth, ‘Bravo! Judicial Power Restored After Almost 30 Years’ Free Malaysia Today (Malaysia, 27 April 2017) <www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/04/27/bravo-judicial-power-restored-after-almost-20-years/> accessed 23 May 2018; G25 Secretariat, ‘Kudos to Federal Court for recent judgment’ The Star (Petaling Jaya, 5 May 2017) <www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2017/05/05/kudos-to-federal-court-for-recent-judgment/> accessed 10 November 2017; Salleh Buang, ‘Restoring Judicial Power’ New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur, 27 July 2017) <www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/07/261181/restoring-judicial-power> accessed 10 November 2017.

146. Gopal Sri Ram (n 85).

147. Shad Saleem Faruqi, ‘Restoring Judicial Clout’ The Star (Petaling Jaya, 8 June 2017) <www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/reflecting-on-the-law/2017/06/08/restoring-judicial-clout-parliament-is-not-supreme-and-it-cannot-take-away-the-judicial-power/> accessed 10 November 2017.

148. Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, ‘Not for judges to rewrite constitution’ New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur, 14 June 2017) <www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/06/248725/not-judges-rewrite-constitution> accessed 10 November 2017; Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, ‘No judge is a parliament’ New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur, 15 June 2017) <www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/06/249016/no-judge-parliament> accessed 10 November 2017. Also available on his blog at: <www.tunabdulhamid.my/index.php/speech-papers-lectures/item/835-the-judges-are-rewriting-the-constitution> accessed 10 November 2017.

149. Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, ‘No judge is a parliament’ (n 148).

150. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 591.

151. See Khoyratty (n 99).

152. As expounded in Kok Wah Kuan (n 6) and Danaharta Urus (n 7).

153. See House of Representatives (Malaysia) (n 49) and House of Representatives (Malaysia) (n 52).

154. Syarikat Kenderaan Melayu Kelantan (n 144) changed the law to follow the approach in Anisminic v Foreign Compensation and In re Racal Communications (n 142); cf the approach of the Privy Council in South East Asia Fire Bricks Sdn Bhd v Non-Metallic Mineral Products Manufacturing Employees Union [1980] UKPC 21, [1981] AC 363 which had been applied from 1981 to 1995.

155. See Tan Tek Seng v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Pendidikan [1996] 1 MLJ 261 (Court of Appeal) and Lee Kwan Woh v Public Prosecutor [2009] 5 MLJ 301 (Federal Court) which attempted to depart from the more restrictive position established in Government of Malaysia v Loh Wai Kong [1979] 2 MLJ 33 (Federal Court); this attempt was subsequently rejected in Sugumar Balakrishnan (n 8); Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan v Victoria Jayaseele Martin [2016] 2 MLJ 309 (Federal Court), and Pua Kiam Wee v Ketua Pengarah Imigresen Malaysia [2018] 4 CLJ 54 (Court of Appeal), all of which reaffirmed the position in Loh Wai Kong.

156. See Public Prosecutor v Pung Chen Choon [1994] 1 MLJ 566 (Supreme Court).

157. [2015] 6 MLJ 47 (Court of Appeal).

158. [2014] 4 MLJ 157 (Court of Appeal). Under Malaysia’s two-tier appeals system, for matters originating in the subordinate courts (the Sessions and Magistrates Courts), the Court of Appeal rather than the Federal Court is generally the final arbiter because cases are appealed first to the High Court and thereafter to the Court of Appeal.

159. Sivarasa Rasiah (n 76); Lee Kwan Woh (n 155).

160. Yuneswaran (n 157) [85]–[86].

161. Pung Chen Choon (n 156) 575, cited in Yuneswaran (n 157) 70–71.

162. See eg Crawford, Earl T, ‘Legislative Status of An Unconstitutional Statute’ (1951) 49 Michigan Law Review 645 ; Harvard Law Review (ed), ‘What Is the Effect of a Court’s Declaring a Legislative Act Unconstitutional?’ (1926) 39(3) Harvard Law Review 373 .

163. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) [51]–[54].

164. ibid [67] (emphasis added).

165. ibid [66].

166. ibid [74].

167. ibid [86].

168. The High Court of Australia has articulated this principle in New South Wales v Commonwealth [1915] HCA 17, (1915) 20 CLR 54, 88–90, 108, and Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia v JW Alexander Ltd [1918] HCA 56, (1918) 25 CLR 434, 441.

169. Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19).

170. See the discussion at n 59 above.

171. Huddart Parker (n 19).

172. Eric Barendt (n 4) 147: ‘As a matter of constitutional law, therefore, judges should themselves determine the scope of the judicial power.’

173. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) [75]. ‘Inherent jurisdiction’ is a subset of ‘judicial power’, which may also arise from other sources such as statute-conferred jurisdiction. But ‘inherent jurisdiction’ without ‘judicial power’ is a meaningless concept; the former cannot logically exist without the latter. A more accurate description would simply be that the 1988 amendments sought to remove ‘judicial power’, ‘inherent jurisdiction’, or both.

174. Whittington, Keith E, ‘Constitutionalism’ in Keith E Whittington, R Daniel Kelemen and Gregory A Caldeira (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (OUP 2008) 281 .

175. Sweet, Alec Stone, ‘Constitutions and Judicial Power’ in Daniele Caramani (ed), Comparative Politics (OUP 2008) 219 .

176. See eg Carl Friedrich (n 16) 12.

177. Declaration of Independence, Part I(A) above. See also Fernando, Joseph M, The Making of the Malayan Constitution (MBRAS 2002) chs 4–5.

178. Jaclyn L Neo, ‘Should Constitutional Principles Be Eternal?’ Straits Times (Singapore, 6 October 2014) <www.straitstimes.com/opinion/should-constitutional-principles-be-eternal> accessed 26 April 2018.

179. Bickel, Alexander M, The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics (2nd edn, Yale University Press 1986) 1618 .

180. Albert, Richard, ‘Constitutional Handcuffs’ (2010) 42 Arizona State Law Review 663, 667, 698 .

181. Neo (n 178).

182. See eg McConnell, Michael W, ‘Textualism and the Dead Hand of the Past’ (1998) 66 George Washington Law Review 1127 ; Samaha, Adam M, ‘Dead Hand Arguments and Constitutional Interpretation’ (2008) 108(3) Columbia Law Review 606 .

183. See eg Neo (n 178).

184. See eg Waldron, Jeremy, ‘The Core of the Case Against Judicial Review’ (2006) 115(6) Yale Law Journal 1346 .

185. Roznai (n 78) 113. On the idea of the ‘constituent power’ and its fundamental characteristics see eg Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph, ‘What Is The Third Estate’ (1789), in Michael Sonenscher (ed), Political Writings (Hackett Publishing 2003) ; Schmitt, Carl, Constitutional Theory (Jeffrey Seitzer tr, Duke University Press 2008) 125132 ; Colon-Rios, Joel, ‘The Legitimacy of the Juridical: Constituent Power, Democracy, and the Limits of Constitutional Reform’ (2010) 48 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 199, 210 .

186. Roznai (n 78) 191.

187. See eg Holmes, Stephen, ‘Precommitment and the Paradox of Democracy’ in Jon Elster and Rune Slagstad (eds), Constitutionalism and Democracy (CUP 1993) 195, 239 ; Doyle, Oran, ‘Constraints on Constitutional Amendment Powers’ in Richard Albert, Xenophon Contiades and Alkmene Fotiadou (eds), The Foundations and Traditions of Constitutional Amendment (Hart Publishing 2017) .

188. Rousseau, Dominique, ‘The Constitutional Judge: Master or Slave of the Constitution?’ in Michel Rosenfeld (ed), Constitutionalism, Identity, Difference and Legitimacy: Theoretical Perspectives (Duke University Press 1994) 261, 273282 .

189. Roznai (n 78) 189.

190. ibid 190; Michel, Stephen and Cofone, Ignacio N, ‘Credible Commitment or Paternalism? The Case of Unamendability’ in Richard Albert and Bertil Emrah Oder (eds), An Unamendable Constitution? Unamendability in Constitutional Democracies (Springer-Verlag 2018) .

191. David Landau, ‘Abusive Constitutionalism’ (2013) 47 UC Davis Law Review 189.

192. Turnout was approximately 68.1% of registered voters that year, which itself constitutes an even smaller percentage of the wider population, since only 43.3% of the population was registered to vote in the 1986 general election. The turnout of voters in the 1986 election therefore amounted to only approximately 29.5% of the population of Malaysia that year. Of this number, 57.3% voted for the victorious National Front coalition. See Tan, Kevin YL, ‘Malaysia’ in Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz and Christof Hartmann (eds), Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook, Vol II (OUP 2001) 143, 152, 155 ; Tommy Thomas (n 44) 25.

193. See eg Harding, The Constitution of Malaysia (n 23) 88–89.

194. House of Representatives (Malaysia) (n 49) and House of Representatives (Malaysia) (n 52); Senate of Malaysia, ‘Parliamentary Debates, Seventh Parliament, Session 2, Vol II, No 7’ (4 and 5 April 1988) (in Malay).

195. Tommy Thomas (n 44) 56. The author identifies five categories of such amendments: (1) Proclamations of Emergency; (2) the composition of the Senate; (3) the deep entrenchment of so-called ‘sensitive’ matters in the Constitution; (4) the abolition of the independence of the Election Commission and of all constitutional limits to electoral gerrymandering; and (5) the proliferation of ouster clauses.

196. For a discussion on ‘dialogic judicial review’, see Bickel (n 179) 240.

197. ibid; Yap (n 14) 22.

198. Tushnet (n 14) 212.

199. Yap (n 14) 22.

200. Rosalind Dixon, ‘Creating Dialogue about Socioeconomic Rights: Strong-form versus Weak-form Judicial Review Revisited’ (2007) 5 International Journal of Constitutional Law 391, 407.

201. Gert Jan Geertjes and Jerfi Uzman, ‘Conventions of Unamendability: Covert Constitutional Unamendability in (Two) Politically Enforced Constitutions’ (draft paper), 6–11 <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2619643> accessed 30 April 2018.

202. Semenyih Jaya (n 9) 590.

203. Foo (n 54) 240–41.

204. For instance, art 145(3A), which was also amended in 1988 to restore to the Attorney-General the very same powers that had been impugned in Dato’ Yap Peng (n 19); the 1981 amendments inserting art 150(8), which purportedly ousts all judicial review over the validity of Emergency Proclamations, laws and Ordinances; and the amendments to art 45(1) in 1960 and 1963 under which the number of federal appointees to the Senate grew to outnumber that of State appointees.

205. See eg Chan, NH, How to Judge the Judges (2nd edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2009) ; Harding, The Constitution of Malaysia (n 23) 199–219; Aun, Wu Min, ‘The Malaysian Judiciary: Erosion of Confidence’ (1999) 1 Australian Journal of Asian Law 124 .

206. 1977 AIR 69 (Supreme Court).

207. See eg Yvonne Tew, ‘On the Uneven Journey to Constitutional Redemption: The Malaysian Judiciary and Constitutional Politics’ (2016) 25(3) Washington International Law Journal 673, 679; Yap (n 14) 77.

208. Harding, The Constitution of Malaysia (n 23) 208.

209. Yap (n 14) 27, 30.

210. The newly inserted words following the amendments of 1988 appear in italics. References to the ‘Supreme Court’ in Article 121(2) were subsequently changed to ‘Federal Court’ in 1994.

* LLB (UCL), LLM (NUS), Advocate & Solicitor (Malaya). PhD Candidate, National University of Singapore. I am grateful to Professor Andrew James Harding and Dr Dian AH Shah for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers selected by the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, who provided very useful suggestions for improvement. Participants at the 7th Asian Constitutional Law Forum in Bangkok, where this paper was presented, also provided constructive feedback and suggestions. All errors and omissions remain strictly my own. The law herein is stated as of 30 April 2018.

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