KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — The controversial gazettement of the National Security Council (NSC) Bill without the King’s express assent may be unlawful, according to constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari.
He also argued that an existing provision under the Federal Constitution which allows legislation to be made automatically without royal assent may even be “illegal”, adding however that a solution can be achieved through the courts.
“It would be recalled that Article 66(4A) which allows a Bill to become law without royal assent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was inserted through a constitutional amendment that was made through the backdoor by the Mahathir administration in 1994,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.
“It may be argued that the amendment was against the Constitution by virtue of Article 38(4), which requires any law that affect the power and position of the Rulers to be consented by the Rulers. In 1994, Mahathir did not even bring [amendments] to the attention of the Rulers,” he added.
A constitutional amendment made in 1994 under then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared that any Bill passed by Parliament that did not get express royal assent shall automatically become law after 30 days.
Abdul Aziz said the government first sought to amend the Constitution in 1983 to allow a Bill to become law if it failed to get royal assent within 15 days. However, the Conference of Rulers rejected the amendment at that time, which triggered a constitutional crisis.
Fast forward to the present day and the government has been forced to fall back on Article 66(4A) to gazette the NSC Bill, which Abdul Aziz said “tells us that the Agong may have done what Sultan Ahmad Shah did in 1983”.
“The only way to clear the air is for someone with locus standi to bring the matter to the Federal Court for a ruling,” he said.
Abdul Aziz also said the Cabinet cannot deflect responsibility over the NSC Bill becoming an Act.
“All the 35 ministers are responsible to defend the NSC by virtue of the same collective principle,” he added.
The NSC Act was passed by Parliament late last year and gazetted on June 7 without an enforcement date.
The Conference of Rulers in February withheld royal assent to the Bill and instead sent it back to the Attorney General’s Chambers to be refined.
Critics of the law argue that it usurps the authority of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and would confer “dictatorial” powers in the hands of the government as it allows the National Security Council — chaired by the prime minister — to take command of the country’s security forces and impose strict policing of localised areas deemed to face security risks.