AS expected, former prime minister Najib Razak filed a petition for a pardon within 14 days of his conviction and sentence. Some have commented that the petition was filed “almost immediately. It carried with it the implication that the judiciary was wrong to put Najib in jail, and further implied that the five judges in the Federal Court had failed the cause of justice in not allowing a postponement of the hearing.”
However, we may recall that Anwar Ibrahim’s petition for pardon in 2015 was also filed within 14 days of his conviction and sentence for the sodomy of his former aide.
Why within 14 days? The answer lies in article 48(1)(e) of the Federal Constitution read with clause (4)(c) of the same aeticle. The former reads as follows:
“Subject to the provisions of this Article, a person is disqualified for being a member of either House of Parliament if he has been convicted of an offence by a court of law in the Federation and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than 1 year or to a fine of not less than RM2000 and has not received a free pardon.”
If read with Article 48(4)(c), then it provides that if within 14 days from the date of conviction and sentence there is filed a petition for pardon, the disqualification as a member of Parliament (MP) shall take effect immediately upon the petition being disposed of.
In simple words, the disqualification of an MP will be stayed if within 14 days of the sentence the convicted MP files a petition of pardon. The stay extends until the disposal of his petition for pardon. (See Joshua Wu, “Why the Pasir Gudang MP is wrong about Najib’s disqualification”),
That’s the reason for the “almost immediate” filing of the petition for pardon.
In Anwar’s case, the Pardons Board had considered and deliberated over the petition for a free pardon, which was presented through his wife and daughter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. On March 16, 2015 His Majesty Yang di-Pertuan Agong rejected the petition and ordered the punishment imposed by the Federal Court on Anwar to take its course.
The facts of Anwar’s petition for pardon can be seen in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim v Menteri Hal-Ehwal Dalam Negeri (2015).
Anwar’s petition was considered, deliberated over and disposed of within three weeks of filing. In other words, his disqualification as an MP was stayed for only three weeks after the filing of his petition.
Anwar’s disqualification as the Permatang Pauh MP was announced by then Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, who informed the Dewan Rakyat that he had received a letter from the Pardons Board.
Najib is expected to have a longer stay since he has also filed for a review of the Federal Court decision which affirmed his conviction and sentence by the High Court.
Article 48(4)(b) allows the stay of disqualification until upon the expiry of 14 days from the date on which the application for review is disposed of by a different panel of the Federal Court.