KUALA LUMPUR: Any advice by the prime minister to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to suspend Parliament for an untenable reason can be challenged in court, a retired judge said.
Gopal Sri Ram said the same point came up for a decision in the case of Miller v Boris Johnson (the British prime minister), in which the Supreme Court struck down the advice to the queen to prorogue Parliament.
“Here, we have a written constitution and our position is stronger than that in England,” Sri Ram said.
In the UK, he said, it is Parliament that is supreme since it does not have a written constitution like Malaysia.
The former Federal Court judge said this was recognised in the 1979 case of Teh Cheng Poh v Public Prosecutor, in which the Privy Council held that the advice of the Cabinet to declare emergency could be challenged.
He said the Privy Council ruled that the declaration of emergency was also bad.
“The prime minister or his Cabinet could only advise the King to suspend Parliament for a legitimate reason,” Sri Ram said, giving an example of one-third of the MPs being down with Covid-19.
Further, he said, there was no medical evidence to show that suspension of the legislature would help the nation recover from the pandemic.
“No country in the Commonwealth or the US with a written constitution has suspended their legislature to combat the pandemic,” he said.
Sri Ram was responding to a suggestion by former Dewan Negara president SA Vigneswaran that Parliament be prorogued to enable the government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Vigneswaran also said it would help the government revive the economy and bring about political stability.
He noted that Article 55(2) of the Federal Constitution stated that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may prorogue or dissolve Parliament”, and added that the prorogation of Parliament was the “country’s safest bet towards maintaining public order, the life of the economy and political stability”.
Lawyer Bastian Pius Vendargon said Vigneswaran’s call to suspend the legislature was illusory.
He said Vigneswaran had committed an error for reading Article 55 and the Standing Orders in a literal way.
“The Constitution should be read in a broad, liberal and meaningful way in line with the rule of law,” he said.
Vendargon questioned why Parliament could not be convened when economic activities or wedding receptions of up to 250 people were allowed.