KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 3): The High Court has dismissed Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's application to return his passport to him permanently in order for him to carry out his official duties.
However, judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah allowed the DPM's passport to be returned to him temporarily, so that he may apply for a diplomatic passport.
In delivering his decision on Friday (Feb 3), Sequerah said: "Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that all persons are equal before the law...the principle underlying Article 8 is that the law must operate alike for all persons.
"Applying these fundamentals principles here, there is therefore no distinction between one accused and another accused person charged with similar offences."
However, he noted that the court was cognisant of the fact that as the DPM and the minister of rural and regional development, Zahid has official duties to carry out.
"But these duties must not clash with the duty towards the court. The courts [also have] their duties to perform," the judge said.
He added that Zahid is still entitled to apply for the release of his passport to carry out his official duties when the need arises, as long as it does not clash with "the duty of the court to proceed with the trial".
Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Abdul Malik Ayob told the court during a brief proceeding on Friday morning that the prosecution had no objection to Zahid's application.
The DPP, however, asked for Zahid's personal passport to be returned to the court after the issuance of his diplomatic passport.
Zahid was represented by counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.
In his application filed last month, Zahid asked the court for the return of his passport in “full, permanently, and with immediate effect”.
The RM2 million bail money he paid will remain untouched.
Because his passport is being withheld by the courts, he said: “I have constraints to carry out my duties as compared to the other ministers in the government as I do not have access to my passport.”
He said that he needs the passport because it is required for his application to obtain a diplomatic passport from the Immigration Department for official business locally and internationally.
He said that as the DPM, he has received the mandate from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to represent him in issues concerning the running of the country.
“Therefore, in order to enable my movement and affairs to carry out my official duties as the DPM, I am required to be at several places, including inside and outside the country, and I believe these matters require the passport to be with me,” he said.
He also said his application was not made in bad faith (mala fide) or prejudicial to any party, and promised that he would cooperate with the courts and the ongoing trial until the end of his defence.
He also vowed that he would not run away from the country, and that he would attend all his court proceedings.
The High Court is holding Zahid’s passport as part of his bail conditions, pending the outcome of his corruption trial before Sequerah.
Zahid is facing 47 charges, comprising 12 for criminal breach of trust (CBT), eight for corruption, and 27 for money laundering, involving RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi funds.
Zahid was present in the court on Friday. His trial is slated to resume on April 10.