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Film Censorship Act provision constitutional, Federal Court rules

Film Censorship Act provision constitutional, Federal Court rules
Lena Rasathi is facing a charge for allegedly screening a documentary entitled "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" that had not been approved by the Film Censorship Board. - File Photo
PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court here today ruled as constitutional a provision under the Film Censorship Act 2002 which makes it an offence for a person to screen a film prior to approval by the Film Censorship Board.

A five-member panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin made that ruling after dismissing an application by a community communication centre programme coordinator, Lena Rasathi A. Hendry, over a reference of constitutional question for the court to decide.

Justice Zulkefli ruled that the court's answer to the question of law posed was in the negative and that there was no merit in her application.

The legal question was whether Section 6 (1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 read together with Section 6 (2)(a) of the same Act violated Article 10 (right to freedom of speech and expression) and Article 8 (1) of the Federal Constitution (equality before the law and entitle to equal protection of the law) and therefore should be struck down and void for unconstitutionality.

He subsequently remitted the matter back to the High Court and gave a directive for the case to proceed for trial at the Magistrate's Court.

Lena is facing a charge at the Magistrate's Court in Kuala Lumpur for allegedly screening a documentary entitled "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" that had not been approved by the Film Censorship Board.

She was accused of committing the offence at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commmerce Hall at Jalan Maharajalela in Kuala Lumpur at 9pm on July 3, 2013.

The charge is under Section 6 (1)(b) of the Film Censorship Act and punishable under Section 6 (2)(a) of the same Act which carries a fine of up to RM30,000 or a jail term of up to three years or both, upon conviction.

Lena applied to refer the constitutional question and was allowed to do so by the Magistrate's Court on Nov 21, 2014. On March 10, this year, the High Court, however, referred the constitutional questions to the Federal Court.

The matter was heard by the Federal Court panel today which also comprised Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Datuk Azahar Mohamed and Datuk Zaharah Ibrahim.

Her counsel Edmund Bon argued that Sections 6(1)(b) and 6(2)(a) were unconstitutional as it violated Lena's right to freedom of expression and the charge against her should be dropped.

Deputy public prosecutor K. Mangai submitted that the sections were constitutional as Parliament was empowered by the Federal Constitution to enact law to provide restriction.

She said the right to freedom of speech and expression accorded to citizens was not absolute, adding that there must be some restrictions on this right.