Court asked to suspend prisoner voting ruling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am

The judiciary was yesterday urged to suspend for nine months the effect of a landmark ruling that quashed the city's ban on prisoner voting, to give the government time to amend the law and implement other administrative arrangements.

The appeal was made to Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung in the Court of First Instance as the applicants in the original case - League of Social Democrats legislator Leung Kwok-hung and two prisoners - sought declarations from the court that the two laws that deprived prisoners of their rights to vote and register as voters were unconstitutional.

The move followed a ruling by Mr Justice Cheung in December that the disenfranchisement provisions that limited prisoners' and detained people's rights to voting, and to register as voters contravened the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights. The Electoral Affairs Commission has since provided interim polling facilities to people on remand, but Michael Thomas, senior counsel for the government, said the authorities would need more time if permanent arrangements were to be made to allow voting by convicted prisoners.

Mr Thomas said that if the court failed to order a temporary suspension, there was a real risk that public confidence in the electoral system would be jeopardised.

But Martin Lee Chu-ming, senior counsel representing Mr Leung, said nothing was more detrimental to public confidence than to preserve a provision already declared unconstitutional for the sake of administrative convenience. He said there was no need for a suspension because the earliest election would be the district council polls in 2011.

The court reserved its judgment.