Lawyer's appeal hearing over departure levy postponed as senior federal counsel unwell

PUTRAJAYA: The hearing of a lawyer's appeal in the Court of Appeal to challenge the imposition of departure levy on Malaysians travelling overseas was postponed Wednesday (Aug 17) as the senior federal counsel in charge of the case was unwell.

R. Kengadharan's counsel Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram informed the three-member panel in online court proceedings that Suzana Atan was taken ill and had to be admitted to hospital.

"I have, unfortunately, to move for an adjournment (of the hearing) on her (Suzana's) behalf," said Sri Ram, who requested for the matter to be sent for case management today.

When asked by Justice Yaacob Md Sam, who chaired the panel, federal counsel V. Krishna Priya confirmed that Suzana, who is the lead counsel, was unwell. Both Krisha and Suzana are representing the Finance Minister and the government.

"We send this matter for case management for a new hearing date to be fixed. We will direct for an earlier hearing date to be assigned for this case," said Justice Yaacob, who presided with Justices Azizah Nawawi and M. Gunalan.

When contacted by Bernama, lawyer A. Srimurugan, who is assisting Sri Ram in the appeal, said the hearing was fixed for Jan 4 next year following case management before deputy registrar Radzilawatee Abdul Rahman today.

He said the appeal would revolve around an important issue on whether a Malaysian citizen has the right to travel abroad and that they would seek to revisit the Loh Wai Kong case law in the light of recent developments in several case laws decided by the Federal Court.

On Feb 27, 2020, High Court judge Mariana Yahya (now Court of Appeal judge) dismissed the lawsuit filed by Kengadharan against the Finance Minister and the government after ruling that she was bound by the Federal Court decisions in the Damansara Member of Parliament and Loh Wai Kong cases, where it ruled that the right to travel abroad was not an absolute right.

In his originating summons filed in the High Court in August 2019, Kengadharan said the Departure Levy Act 2018 and the Departure Levy Order 2019 were in breach of his fundamental right to travel and sought a declaration that the orders breach Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution and cannot be enforced.

In his affidavit to support the suit, Kengadharan also said any form of tax imposed, including on those who wish to go on a pilgrimage or to perform the haj, was a violation of fundamental liberties.

Kengadharan also said any imposition of a departure tax, in addition to the existing service and airport taxes, would be burdensome and harsh.

On Aug 2, 2019, then finance minister Lim Guan Eng said travellers going out of the country would have to pay between RM8 and RM150 in departure levies beginning Sept 1, 2019. - Bernama

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