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Student sues university over the right to peaceful assembly


KUALA LUMPUR: An undergraduate has initiated legal proceedings against his university and two others, saying he was seeking to uphold his constitutional rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi, 21, a third year law student at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said he was issued with a suspension order for participating in the #TangkapMO1 rally on Aug 27 last year.

He wants a declaration that Section 15(3)(b) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 and Regulations 3 and 13 of the UKM (Discipline of Students) Rules 1999 do not preclude university students from exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peacefully without arms outside campus, under Article 10(1)(a) and (b) of the Federal Constitution.

Alternatively, he is applying for a declaration that these provisions contravene the Federal Constitution to the extent that they regulate the conduct of students outside of campus.

He is asking for costs and any further relief deemed fit by the court.

In his court papers, Asheeq Ali has named UKM, the Higher Education Minister, and the Government as defendants.

In his statement, he said UKM had on Sept 27 last year issued a show-cause letter to him in relation to his participation at the rally.

He said he was found guilty by the UKM disciplinary board on Nov 15 last year, and was fined RM200 and suspended for a semester with immediate effect.

Asheeq Ali's lawyer A. Surendra said his client's appeal was heard by the UKM board last week without the student being present.

The board upheld the fine, but reduced the suspension, on the charge of having smeared the good name of the university, from a semester to one month.

"They agreed to stay the suspension pending disposal of this lawsuit," said Surendra, adding that the new suspension order was supposed to have taken effect on Jan 12.

Speaking to reporters here Monday, Asheeq Ali said he filed the lawsuit on the grounds that the suspension order was not the right move by the university.

"They are using the rules to stop my constitutional rights to assemble peacefully and to freedom of expression," he said.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah has fixed Feb 13 for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to give an update on whether it wants to file an application to strike out the originating summons filed by the student.

Disclosing this after proceedings in chambers, Asheeq Ali's lawyer Surendra said the AGC representative was not present at the proceedings.

Surendra said UKM, through its lawyer M. Anthony, wants to apply for security of costs from the student and that this application was now ordered by the judge to be disposed off before a registrar.

He said the student, named as the sole plaintiff, also wants to file an application to transfer the case to another High Court that is hearing a similar matter involving four Universiti Malaya students.

He said Justice Hanipah has set Feb 28 to hear the student's transfer bid.

"UKM is going to object this transfer application. The parties have been ordered to file submissions for the transfer bid," he added.
   

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