The Court of Appeal declared today that a provision in the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971 which restricts students from expressing in support of, or opposing, any political party, is unconstitutional.
In a landmark 2-1 majority decision, the three-man panel held that Section 15 (5)(a) of the UUCA was unreasonable and violated freedom of speech.
Datuk Mohd Hishamuddin Mohd Yunus and Datuk Linton Albert allowed the appeal brought by four political science undergraduates of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) — Muhammad Hilman Idham, Woon King Chai, Muhammad Ismail Aminuddin and Azlin Shafina Mohamad Adza — who faced disciplinary action for being present during the campaign for the Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election on April 24 last year.
Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing, who led the panel dissented, and ruled that the restriction was necessary to prevent infiltration of political ideologies among students who were “vulnerable, capable of being subjected to peer pressure and easily influenced,” pointing out that this would affect the universities’ primary purpose in pursuit of education.
In Justice Hishamuddin’s 21-page judgment, he said Section 15(5)(a) was irrational as it impeded the healthy development of the critical mind and original thoughts of students, the objective which, he said, higher learning institutions should strive to achieve.