Undi18 gets leave in legal bid to lower voting age in M’sia

·4-min read
Undi18 gets leave in legal bid to lower voting age in M’sia
Undi18 gets leave in legal bid to lower voting age in M’sia

Eighteen youths today obtained court leave to proceed with a legal bid to compel the government to lower the voting age in Malaysia by next month.

Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid allowed the judicial review leave application by the Young Voters Association (Undi18) to compel the government to implement the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 by July this year.

This means that the court will later fix a date to hear the merits of the 18 youths' judicial review proper via submissions from all parties.

On April 2, Undi18 took the government to court over the postponement for the lowering of the voting age.

The postponement is likely to result in 1.2 million 18- to 20-year-olds unable to vote in the 15th general election if it is called this year.

This is despite the fact that constitutional amendments for the lowering were gazetted into law in 2019.

On May 2, Bernama reported Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan as assuring that the policy would be implemented this year.

During today’s proceedings conducted via Zoom, Ahmad Kamal disagreed with the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) contention that Undi18’s judicial review leave application was frivolous and vexatious.

The AGC, representing the government, previously raised an objection to the judicial review leave application contending that the implementation of the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age required amendments to all necessary laws and regulations.

The AGC was referring to the need to amend the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, the Election Offence Act 1954 and the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.

The three respondents named in the judicial review were Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the government and the Election Commission (EC).

Ahmad Kamal today noted that the merits of the judicial review needed to be heard because the amendments to the necessary laws and regulations were a secondary issue that should not stand in the way of the constitutional amendment coming into effect.

The judge emphasised that the Federal Constitution was the supreme law of Malaysia and that any law which contravened it was void as per Article 4(1) of the constitution.

“Hence, it is my view 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.

“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 ruled.

Ahmad Kamal pointed out that the court needed to hear the merits of the judicial review because the respondents’ decisions have a potentially adverse impact on the Undi18 applicants who are aged between 18 and 20.

The judge was referring 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.

He pointed out 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.

“In this instant application, the applicants are citizens of Malaysia aged between 18 to 20 years old.

“In the event section 3(a) of the act is brought into force, the applicants would have the rights and qualifications to be registered in the electoral roll as an elector in the constituency which they reside on the qualifying date and they are entitled to vote in that constituency in any election to the House of Representative or the legislative assembly.

“The applicants are also part of the Undi18 movement which is a Malaysian youth movement that had successfully advocated for the amendment of Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old.

“On that account, I am in the agreement with the applicants’ submission that the respondents’ decision in not bringing into operation section 3(a) of the act immediately and/ or before July 2021, has adversely affected the applicants,” Ahmad Kamal said.

At the end of the proceedings today, the court fixed July 1 for further case management of the matter.

Besides the 18 youths representing Undi18, another five youths from Sarawak had also recently launched a separate legal action over the same issue.

On May 28, the Kuching High Court granted leave to the five youths to commence the judicial review application. The merits of the legal action will be heard on June 30.

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