PUTRAJAYA, July 4 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and 12 water consumers have the legal right to gain access to information contained in two documents concerning water tariff rates, the Federal Court was told today.
Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said the disclosure of the concession agreement between the federal government, Selangor government and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), and the audit report, was a basic right as the documents constituted public interest.
In the appeal brought by MTUC and the 12 water consumers, Malik argued that the appellants had the right to be informed, otherwise they would be adversely affected by the increase in water price.
MTUC and the 12, including its former chairman Syed Sharir Syed Mohamud, and two children, aged 10 and 15, had filed a judicial review application seeking to quash the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry's refusal to give them access to the documents.
Malik further stated that the appellants, who were water consumers in the Klang Valley, would be affected by the concession agreement due to the monopolistic control in water supply and they wanted to know whether the reason for price increase was justified.
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He said the audit report and water concession agreement entered between the parties involved should be disclosed to the appellants as the information pertained to their right to meaningful access of water.
"We are not strangers or troublemakers. We are concerned about having to pay certain tariff rates following the proposed hike. We are a party adversely affected and we cannot just do nothing," said Malik before a five-member panel chaired by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria.
They had named the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry and the government as parties to their suit.
On June 14, 2007, they obtained leave from the High Court to commence the judicial review. On June 28, 2010, the High Court allowed their application, ruling that the disclosure of the documents would not be detrimental to national or public interest.
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However, on Feb 25, 2011, the Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 majority decision, overruled the High Court's decision and held that MTUC and the 12 water consumers did not have the legal right of access to the audit report and water concession agreement.
The Federal Court had on Jan 30 this year granted the appellants leave to appeal.
Meanwhile, senior federal counsel Suzana Atan submitted that the minister had rightly refused the appellants access to the documents.
She said the concession agreement was classified as a "confidential' document and its disclosure to a third party required consent from the contracting parties while the audit report was classified as an official secret document.
Justice Arifin said the court would defer their decision to an undetermined date.
Presiding on the panel with Justice Arifin were Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Federal Court judges Datuk Hashim Yusoff, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar and Datuk Hasan Lah. -- BERNAMA JA MAM PA