KOTA KINABALU, Nov 11 – The Sabah Law Society (SLS) said it has won leave from the High Court here for judicial review of the federal government’s failure to conduct a review of the 40 per cent return of revenue due to Sabah under the Federal Constitution.
According to SLS president Roger Chin, High Court judge Datuk Ismail Brahim granted the group’s application, which came after Putrajaya gazetted in April a special annual grant of RM125.6 million for the state for the next five years, which SLS claimed was unconstitutional.
Ismail set December 16 for hearing.
“He said we have presented an arguable case and we have the locus standi to apply for this judicial review as a piece of public interest litigation,” Chin said.
“Second, the 2022 review order is justiciable as we are not challenging the content. The court has the power to interpret the Federal Constitution to determine if there is a breach of the constitutional duty to pay the 40 per cent entitlement. The application is for a public remedy to address any breach.”
He said that the case was also to address the breach of the federal government’s constitutional duty to pay the 40 per cent return of revenue entitlement for the “lost years” between 1974 and 2021, which is a justiciable.
The state government, which earlier applied to be joined as the second respondent in the suit to represent its interests, was supportive of the SLS’s judicial review application, said its counsel Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad.
He said that the issue is not whether the 2022 Special Grant Order was unlawful but to seek compensation for the federal government’s failure to conduct a review of Sabah’s 40 per cent Special Grant which, is a breach of Articles 112C and 112D of the Federal Constitution.
“This is a very important case for Sabah. The federal government must honour its revenue sharing obligations to Sabah under the Constitution and be transparent about how much revenue it takes from the state each year.
“This judicial review will make clear that the federal government is answerable under the law if it acts in breach of its Constitutional obligations to Sabah” said Fuad.
The Attorney General’s Chambers, represented by Susanna Attan argued that matters concerning the Sabah Special Grant were non-justiciable and could not be brought to court in the event of a dispute.
In the suit, the SLS alleges that the federal government breached the Constitution by failing to conduct a review of the 40 per cent special grant every five years starting in 1974 and that the federal government was still obliged to pay to Sabah 40 per cent of its revenues derived from the state in each of the intervening years since 1974.
In April, while negotiations are ongoing about the sum, the federal government said that it would however gazette a special annual grant of RM125.6 million for the state for 2022-2026.