Civil courts cannot review shariah court decisions, says govt lawyer

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Ho Kit Yen

– April 27, 2022 11:37 AM

UALA LUMPUR: A government lawyer contended in the High Court today that decisions by the shariah courts are final, and civil courts have no power to review them.

Federal counsel Sallehuddin Md Ali said Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the civil courts have no jurisdiction on matters that come under the Islamic court.

“The provision is to stop aggrieved parties coming to the civil courts to review shariah court decisions,” he said, in objecting against a 32-year-old woman’s bid to commence a legal challenge to renounce Islam.

The woman, born as a Muslim, claimed she never practised Islam and her mother gave her the free will to choose her religion.

She said she had previously gone to the shariah high court here to seek an order to convert out of Islam as she wanted to practise Buddhism.

Shortly after she filed her application on renunciation before the shariah high court, the court ordered her to attend 12 “counselling” sessions.

Subsequently, the court denied her application to leave Islam, and told her to go for more counselling sessions. When she appealed, the shariah appeals court upheld the ruling.

The woman then turned to the civil court in an attempt to nullify the decisions by the shariah courts. She claimed the decision to reject her “conversion out” application violated Article 11, which guaranteed a person’s freedom of religion.

Today, High Court judge Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid asked Salehuddin what if a shariah court decision was “wrong”.

Salehuddin replied: “Whether the decision is right or wrong, it ends there. If not, everyone (who is dissatisfied) will come to the civil courts.”

He also said the shariah courts were not “tribunals where the losing party can come to the civil courts to challenge a decision”.

“Tribunals are not accorded with the protection like Article 121(1A).”

The woman’s lawyer, Fahri Azzat, told the court this was not a frivolous case that ought to be dismissed during the leave application.

He said the shariah court, in dismissing the woman’s application to leave Islam, disregarded the principles of freedom of religion.

“It is our contention that her freedom of religion was breached,” he said.

Kamal set June 15 for a decision on whether to allow the woman to proceed with her legal challenge on renunciation.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2022/04/27/civil-courts-cannot-review-shariah-court-decisions-says-govt/

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