Lawyers condemn DBKL’s lifetime ban on Crackhouse Comedy Club, say sets bad precedent for power abuse

·5-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Lawyers have warned that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) ban on a popular comedy centre in Kuala Lumpur and its owners from opening any businesses sets a bad precedent that is tantamount to power abuse and infringing the right of life that is guaranteed to all, under the Federal Constitution.

Speaking to the Malay Mail, lawyer Dinesh Muthal said that the Local Government Act 1976 and the Entertainment (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) Act 1992 does not stipulate that DBKL can impose lifetime bans as they deem fit.

“There is no law to allow such a ban. I have checked thoroughly. They are not only shutting down Crackhouse Comedy Club, but also banning its owners from opening any other businesses in the future under their names. This cannot be done.

“To me, this is entirely wrong. They have done wrong with this particular premise. You have already fined them, and closed the business either permanently or temporarily; which can be done. However, banning them for future endeavours, that is closing their rice bowl.

“They have no power to do that. It is against Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, whereby their right of life is being restricted. Right of livelihood can be read under the right of life because once your livelihood has been restricted, your right of life automatically goes off. If you cannot earn to feed yourself, your right of life is gone too,” Dinesh said.

He added that if a particular private limited company has been blocked, DBKL cannot prevent the said company’s shareholders from opening a different company under a different registration.

He also raised doubts over DBKL’s enforcement activities, questioning how it overlooked for a long time, that the Crackhouse Comedy Club did not possess an entertainment licence as it had previously announced when shutting down the said premise.

Dinesh also questioned the justification behind DBKL’s move as the premise owner, Rizal Van Geyzel has only been charged in court and has not been proved guilty yet.

“He is not found guilty in a court of law. So why did DBKL take such an action before the court of law has given a decision whether he is guilty or not?” he asked.

Earlier today, lawyers representing the co-owners of the Crackhouse Comedy Club demanded that the Kuala Lumpur mayor reverse the ban on the premises and its owners’ freedom to open businesses in Kuala Lumpur, within two days.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted lawyers from Karpal Singh and Co as saying that they will sue Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah unless the ban is lifted.

FMT reported that a letter of demand (LoD) was issued to Mahadi on the matter, which highlighted that legal action would be initiated, should no response be received from him within the stipulated time period.

The letter reportedly said that Crackhouse Comedy Club owners were not officially notified about the revocation of the club’s license and the blacklisting, adding that they had never been found guilty of any offence that justifies DBKL’s decision.

Lawyer Dinesh Muthal questioned the justification behind DBKL’s move as the premise owner, Rizal Van Geyzel has only been charged in court and has not been proved guilty yet. — Picture by Devan Manuel
Lawyer Dinesh Muthal questioned the justification behind DBKL’s move as the premise owner, Rizal Van Geyzel has only been charged in court and has not been proved guilty yet. — Picture by Devan Manuel

Lawyer Dinesh Muthal questioned the justification behind DBKL’s move as the premise owner, Rizal Van Geyzel has only been charged in court and has not been proved guilty yet. — Picture by Devan Manuel

The firm also said that the owners’ right to livelihood as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution would be “seriously be affected”, and labelled DBKL’s move as “unreasonable” and “irrational”.

Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias had said that DBKL blacklisted the owners of the Crackhouse Comedy Club for life, for violating the terms of its licence.

He said the individuals concerned can also no longer obtain a business licence in Kuala Lumpur, even if they were to use a different company name or attempt to run a different business.

DBKL had first temporarily suspended the operations of the comedy club, following a viral video clip said to be insulting to Islam.

A woman, Siti Nuramira Abdullah, and her boyfriend, Alexander Navin Vijayachandran, have since been charged with regard to the case.

Lawyer Haziq Abdul Aziz also concurred with Dinesh.

He said that the issue with the ban is much bigger and infringes on one’s freedom of expression and speech.

“It’s an unwarranted knee-jerk reaction, disproportionate, excessive display of abuse of power on the part of DBKL. Indeed, DBKL has the power and statutory authority to regulate the approval, renewal and termination of business licences. However, if this power goes unchecked, it might affect the livelihood of certain quarters in society as we can see in the case of Crackhouse Comedy case.

“Even the most distasteful jokes should be a protected expression. Jokes — like any other speech, have diverse interpretations, and should always be viewed in context,” he added.

Haziq said that while the decision by DBKL to ban the business is legal, as it is allowed to do so under the Local Government Act, the decision can be challenged in court, with regards to its effect.

“Article 5(1) says that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, save in accordance with law. The expression life in Article 5(1) means more than mere animal existence and extends to every limb or faculty through which life is enjoyed.

“To deny someone’s right to earn a living by denying their right to conduct business and earn a living, I can see a ripe case for a judicial review here. The duty to protect public interest must always be balanced with individual rights so that there won’t be excessive encroachment of rights and abuse of power.

“Also, to protect freedom of speech and expression, it must be subjected to objective standards and not individual perception, and not the DBKL’s perception definitely,” he added.