Can sue RTD for refusing service over dressing, lawyers say (9.6.15)

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said a person may apply for a judicial review of the RTD’s refusal to provide service for violation of its dress code. — Picture by Choo Choy May - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/can-sue-rtd-for-refusing-service-over-dressing-lawyers-say#sthash.YltkKjVz.dpuf

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said a person may apply for a judicial review of the RTD’s refusal to provide service for violation of its dress code. — Picture by Choo Choy May – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/can-sue-rtd-for-refusing-service-over-dressing-lawyers-say#sthash.YltkKjVz.dpuf

The public may take the Road Transport Department (RTD) to court if they are denied service for violating the agency’s dress code, lawyers said today after the department forced a woman to wear a sarong before serving her.

Former Sessions Court judge Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin said the RTD, which prohibits visitors from wearing skirt lengths above the knee, shorts or sleeveless shirts at its offices, has no business imposing the Islamic dress code on the public.

“It’s illegal and can be challenged in court,” Noor Farida told Malay Mail Online.

“They can only do so if it is provided for under their governing Act, which is the Road Transport Act.

“The JPJ should confine itself to undertaking its role and functions as mandated by the Road Transport Act and not arrogate to itself the function of moral policing,” added Noor Farida, who is also a member of G25, a group of Malay former high-ranking civil servants fighting for moderation.

The RTD published its dress code, which prohibits even men from wearing sleeveless shirts, on social media yesterday after a Chinese woman complained on Facebook that she was refused service at an RTD office for wearing a skirt that ended above her knees.

The woman, who was at the RTD office for a vehicle ownership transfer, claimed that government officers told her they would not entertain her unless she wore the full-length sarong provided to her.

Following the public furore over the incident, the department issued an apology to the woman on Twitter this afternoon, saying it was not part of its policy to provide visitors with a sarong to cover up.

When asked if it is similarly illegal for other government departments to impose a dress code on the public, Noor Farida questioned if service can be denied if one’s dressing does not break public decency laws.

“Would that not amount to dereliction of duty on the part of the department concerned?

“The problem is the Malaysian public is a compliant lot. Nobody has challenged these government departments on their dress codes. That is why they are able to get away with it,” she said.

Lawyer New Sin Yew said the RTD could be sued for violating an individual’s constitutional right to freedom of expression.

“JPJ is irrational in imposing their dress code on us. They should be concerned with road traffic instead of acting as fashion police,” New told Malay Mail Online, using the Malay acronym for the RTD.

“Imagine if such dress codes were to extend to driving in public. I can’t drive if I am sleeveless. Ridiculous, right?” he added.

He noted that the right to freedom of expression merely does not apply to being naked in public, saying: “Going stark naked is a fundamental human wrong”.

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said a person may apply for a judicial review of the RTD’s refusal to provide service over one’s dressing.

“In the situation of the woman who came to JPJ, despite the fact that she did not ‘adhere’ to the dress code of that particular JPJ office, the JPJ officers have no legal basis to deny her the services that she sought,” he told Malay Mail Online.

“Dress code in government departments is not law. So enforcement must be tempered with compassion and common sense. The way JPJ officers dealt with that issue is questionable.

“It is not a zero-sum game. Not just ignore or send her back. They could have nicely reminded her of the dress code but still serve her, not force her to wear a sarong,” Syahredzan added.

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/can-sue-rtd-for-refusing-service-over-dressing-lawyers-say#sthash.YltkKjVz.dpuf

Related story: Mosques and temples, yes, but not RTD, group says of new dress code (9.6.15)

 RTD apologises for making woman wear a sarong (9.6.15)

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