Thursday May 22, 2008 MYT 8:14:25 PM
Federal Court is right court to hear 'prophet' case
By CECIL FUNG
: The Federal Court is the right court to hear a 57-year-old self-proclaimed prophet's application to challenge certain provisions in Selangor's Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment.
The apex court decided this Thursday when it dismissed an application by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) for an order that the issue must be decided by the Syariah High Court as provided for by the Federal Constitution.
As such, the suit by Abdul Kahar Ahmad to challenge the legality of five sections of the enactment in which he was charged under will continue at the Federal Court.
Chief Justice Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad, in his judgment, said there was nothing in the Constitution that says its (the Constitution's) interpretation was within the jurisdiction of the Syariah court.
He said the Syariah court's jurisdiction was confined to the limited matters enumerated in the state list of the Constitution and enacted by the respective state enactments.
Abdul Hamid also pointed out that "ascertainment of Islamic law and other personal laws for the purposes of federal law" was a federal matter as stated in item 4(k) of the Federal List in the Constitution's Ninth Schedule.
(Item 4 lists civil and criminal law and procedure and the administration of justice under the Federal List.)
As for MAIS' reliance on Article 121(1A) of the Constitution in their application, the Chief Justice ruled that the Article did not confer jurisdiction to the Syariah court to interpret the Constitution to exclude the Federal Court from hearing Abdul Kahar's matter.
"Before the jurisdiction of this court is excluded, it must be shown that the Syariah Court has jurisdiction over the matter first.
"That is not the case here.
"Whether the impugned provisions are within the scope that the state legislature has jurisdiction to make or not, and whether they are valid or not, will be decided when we hear the (Abdul Kahar's) petition," he said.
Abdul Hamid dismissed MAIS' application with no order as to costs.
Court of Appeal President Justice Zaki Tun Azmi and Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, who sat on the three-man bench with the Chief Justice, concurred with his decision.
Abdul Kahar, reportedly a former zoo worker, was charged at the Shah Alam Syariah High Court in August 2005 with five offences under the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Among others, he was accused of declaring himself a prophet and for ridiculing the practices of Islam.
As a result of his refusal to attend the Syariah High Court, his case had not proceeded to trial. The next hearing date is fixed for May 28.
Abdul Kahar is seeking to declare certain sections of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and the Islamic Religious Administration (Selangor) Enactment as null and void.