By Tan Yi Liang
KUALA LUMPUR (March 6, 2009) : The High Court ruled today that the constitutional issue in the dispute between Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin and Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir over the latter's appointment as Perak Mentri Besar is to be referred to the Federal Court.
Justice Lau Bee Lan made the decision after hearing submissions from Senior Federal Counsel Datuk Kamaludin Mat Said and Nizar's lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah on Monday, saying that it was to bring about "speedy and economical determination" to the legal dispute.
She said there are constitutional issues involving the interpretation of Article 16 (6) of the Perak Constitution which required the apex court to resolve.
Lau then directed Sulaiman and Kamaludin to formulate constitutional questions to be referred to the Federal Court. She also stayed the judicial review in her court.
Lau said she agreed with Kamaludin's argument on Monday that the court must give a wide meaning to the interpretation of "constitution" under Section 84 of the Courts of Judicature Act. Kamaluddin had argued that Section 84 was applicable to this case as it covered issues arising from both the Federal Constitution and the State Constitution.
Sulaiman, in his submission on Tuesday, however disagreed, contending that the High Court should first deal with and grant Nizar's application for leave to file for judicial r eview before considering the issue of referral to the Federal Court.
He argued that Section 84 only applied to cases in which issues arose from the Federal Constitution and not the State Constitution and that it was not applicable to Nizar's suit as the issues in dispute related to the Perak Constitution.
Sulaiman applied for stay of Lau's order pending appeal to the Court of Appeal as the ruling involved interpretation of the Act which might have repercussions on other cases.
Lau dismissed the application, and fixed Tuesday to determine whether questions formulated for the Federal Court's determination can be pronounced in an open court.
Mohammad Nizar took up the case after he was asked to step down as menteri besar by the Sultan of Perak who then appointed Zambry to replace him after declaring that Barisan Nasional had the majority in the state assembly.
BN seized power after three opposition assemblymen quit their parties to become 'BN-friendly independents' and another returned to Umno just days after joining Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). This left the two sides with 28 assemblymen each in the 59-seat assembly.
Mohammad Nizar then went to court, seeking a declaration that he is the righful Perak MB and an injunction to bar Zambry from discharging his duties as the MB.