By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid | Malaysiakini

A Johor voter has obtained a court greenlight to proceed with a legal challenge over him being purportedly barred from casting his vote in the Johor state election earlier this year.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning granted leave to RK Tamileswaaran to commence with the judicial review against the Election Commission (EC) and the federal government.

The applicant’s counsel New Sin Yew confirmed that judge Noorin Badaruddin made the ruling after hearing submissions from parties during proceedings today.

“The court has set July 6 for case management of the matter,” the lawyer said when contacted.

In effect, today’s ruling means the court will later set a date to hear the merits of the voter’s judicial review.

Tamileswaaran was also represented by lawyer Beatrice Chin.

The government and EC were represented by senior federal counsel Muhammad Al-Saifi Hashim, Nor Aqilah Abdul Halim, and Nik Ahmad Marzuki Nik Mohamed.

On June 9 through a media statement, Bersih announced that they had facilitated Tamileswaaran to mount the legal action over his being allegedly barred from voting in the March 12 state polls, due to his purported COVID-19 status.

The electoral reform group contended that the EC should be responsible, as the voting right of a citizen had allegedly been denied over the COVID-19 issue.

“The said voter, who filed the suit, is a voter in Skudai and is a first-time voter.

“He had taken the necessary cautionary measures, such as conducting a self-test before going to the polling station but was stopped by the EC workers even though the test result was negative,” Bersih claimed.

EC’s decision irrational

The non-governmental organisation also contended that the EC’s decision was irrational and illegal as the plaintiff has the right to vote as provided under Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, the Election Act 1958 and the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.

“Election laws do not provide any power to the EC to deny voter’s right to vote on the grounds of infectious disease and (while) still in quarantine period.

“Election laws do not provide any requirement to obtain any prior permission from the district health officer before they can vote.

“The EC had wrongfully delegated its power to the district health officer in the matter to vote,” Bersih alleged.

The group quoted Chin as saying that although during the election there were regulations from the Health Ministry on COVID-19, the final say on the conduct of the election is still with the EC to ensure a voter’s right is not affected.

Bersih emphasised that the EC, as the sole election management body, must ensure that the election can be participated by all Malaysians who are registered as voters.

“There are various methods that can be used by the EC to ensure the voting process if the EC and the government are willing to go down to the ground and have a dialogue with various stakeholders to get more proactive measures in conducting elections, especially in the COVID-19 situation,” the group said.

On the day of the polls, Bersih condemned the authorities’ barring of COVID-19 patients from voting.

Earlier that day, a woman who was COVID-19 positive was slapped with an RM1,000 fine after turning up to vote in Larkin.

This was after health authorities checked her MySejahtera application which showed her status was red – indicating that she is a COVID-19 patient.

The woman claimed she did not know that she was not allowed to vote while under quarantine, according to Free Malaysia Today.