|Federal Court hears Hindraf 5 appeal|
|Andrew Ong | Apr 2, 08 4:05pm|
The country’s highest court today began its hearing on an appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to quash the bid for freedom by five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders who are being detained without trial.
The Federal Court three-member panel comprising justices Arifin Zakaria, Hashim Yusoff and Chief Judge of Malaya Alauddin Mohd Sheriff spent the entire morning hearing a 11-page submission from Karpal Singh, who is representing the detainees.
Proceedings adjourned at 1pm and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail would be making his submissions tomorrow.
On Dec 13 last year, P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, V Ganabatirau, R Kengadharan and K Vasanthakumar - dubbed as the Hindraf 5 - were detained under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 for two years.
The five were arrested shortly after organising a mammoth street rally in Kuala Lumpur which drew some 30,000 disgruntled Indians on Nov 25 last year.
Following this, the five filed a habeas corpus (wrongful detention) application to the High Court claiming that their detention was illegal and unconstitutional.
However, High Court judicial commissioner Zainal Azman Ab Aziz on Feb 26 ruled that the detention orders issued by then internal security minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were valid.
Karpal today submitted that Abdullah had acted in bad faith for not resorting to Section 73 (1), which allows for 60 days of detention without trial.
He explained that by doing so, Abdullah had deprived the appellants the opportunity to exculpate themselves so that the police could recommend that a detention order under Section 8 (1) not be made.
"What the first respondent did amounts to exercise of dictatorial powers. The judiciary is the last bastion to prevent excesses of the executive.
"In this case, this court should act without fear or favour and rule that the detention order against the appellants is unlawful and void," he added.
Karpal also argued that Zainal Azman was wrong in disagreeing that Abdullah could not have made an informed decision before issuing the detention orders.
'Prove national security threat'
Speaking to reporters later, lawyer Gobind Singh Deo explained that the appellants are trying to convince the court that Section 8 and Section 73 of the ISA must be read together.
"There has been precedents where the two sections are read separately but I believe that this is the first time this matter has been challenged in at the Federal Court level," he said.
Meanwhile, newly elected Kapar MP S Manickavasagam told a crowd of some 100 Hindraf supporters outside the Palace of Justice that he would take the matter to Parliament should the appeal be rejected.
Manickavasagam also announced that he and other community leaders would be submitting a letter to Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar on Monday over the matter.
"Until today, he has yet to prove that the five Hindraf leaders are a threat to national security. We challenge him to prove the government’s allegations or release them," he said.
Syed Hamid has repeatedly rejected appeals to release the Hindraf leaders citing security concerns.
Pushpaneela: Release my husband
One of the detained, lawyer Manoharan, who stood as an opposition candidate in the Selangor state legislature, soundly beat the incumbent in March 8 polls while in detention.
His wife, S Pushpaneela, appealed for his immediate release.
"I plead with the prime minister to show some compassion to my family and I, who are under great stress and strains and also a feeling of uncertainty about our future," she said.
Attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail is due to oppose Karpal's appeal motion tomorrow.
"I will act solely on the basis of the law as the opposing counsel," he told AFP.
Hindraf supporters - mostly clad in saffron - began converging in front of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya since 7am. Entry passes for media personnel and the public were quickly snapped up before 9am.