By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid | Malaysiakini

A legal bid by 18 youths to compel the government to lower the voting age will come up for a full court hearing on Aug 23.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court fixed the date during online case management of the judicial review this morning.

On June 17, judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid granted leave to the youths, who are members of the Young Voters Association (Undi18) to commence with the legal action for the nationwide voting age to be lowered from 21 to 18.

On Aug 23, the court will hear submissions from parties on the merits of the judicial review proper.

Undi18’s counsel New Sin Yew confirmed the outcome of the case management before the High Court registry today.

“The hearing before Ahmad Kamal is on Aug 23 at 9am,” the lawyer said when contacted.

Senior federal counsel Noor Atiqah Zainal Abidin, who is from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), appeared for the three respondents, namely Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the government, and the Election Commission (EC).

On April 2, Undi18 took the government to court over the postponement of lowering the voting age.

The postponement is likely to result in 1.2 million 18 to 20-year-olds unable to vote in the 15th general election if it is called this year.

This is despite the fact that constitutional amendments for the lowering of the voting age were gazetted into law in 2019.

On May 2, Bernama reported Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Takiyuddin Hassan as giving his assurance that the policy would be implemented this year.

The AGC, representing the government, previously raised an objection to the judicial review leave application, contending that the implementation of the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age required amendments to all necessary laws and regulations.

The AGC was referring to the need to amend the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, the Election Offence Act 1954 and the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.

However, the court disagreed with the AGC’s contention and granted leave to Undi18 so that the judicial review can be subjected to a full hearing.

Ahmad Kamal had ruled that the merits of the judicial review needed to be heard because the amendments to the necessary laws and regulations were a secondary issue that should not stand in the way of the constitutional amendment coming into effect.

The judge said that the matter must be allowed to be subjected to a full hearing in order to allow the respondents to provide an explanation by affidavit regarding the delay in implementing the lowering of the voting age.

Ahmad Kamal also noted that the issue needed to be ventilated via full hearing as the respondents’ decisions have a potentially adverse impact on the Undi18 applicants, who are aged between 18 and 20.

The judge was referring to the decision of the respondents in relation to the implementation of section 3(a) of the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2019, which was passed by Parliament on July 16, 2019.

Besides the 18 youths representing Undi18, another five youths from Sarawak had also recently launched a separate legal action on the same issue.

On May 28, the High Court in Kuching granted leave to the five youths to commence the judicial review application. The merits of the legal action are still being heard.