Court refuses to include Selangor religious council in suit

selangor-gavelPUTRAJAYA: The Selangor Islamic Religious Affairs Council today failed in its application to be made a party in a suit brought by a publisher and its director over a controversial book.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench chaired by Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said the council’s concern could be addressed by other state authorities named as parties to the suit.

“The applicant (council) could pass on its concern to other state authorities to be raised during the appeal,” she said.

The council, in its application, said it should be made party as it was the adviser to the Sultan of Selangor on Islamic affairs.

Lawyer A Surendra Ananth, appearing for ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and its director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid, said the council’s intervener application should have been started in the High Court.

The council only filed the application after the company and Mohd Ezra appealed to the Court of Appeal against a High Court ruling.

The Court of Appeal will hear the appeal on April 26.

Surendra said the subject matter involved investigation on criminal matters which came under the authority of the Selangor Religious Department, not the council.

Lawyer Alif Ridzuan Mohd Yusof represented the council while Selangor state legal adviser Nik Suhaimi Nik Sulaiman appeared for other state Islamic religious authorities.

High Court judge Hanipah Farikullah last September turned down the judicial review application of ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra to challenge a raid carried out by the department to seize translated copies of the book Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta, authored by Irshad Manji.

Hanipah made the decision after allowing a preliminary objection by the department, its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor Syarie prosecution chief, Selangor government and the Malaysian government, who are respondents.

The judge agreed to the objection raised as the case had been decided on a question of law at the Federal Court.

On Sept 28, 2015, the apex court ruled as valid a provision in the Selangor state Shariah enactment which punishes Muslims for publishing and disseminating religious books that were against Islamic Law.

The apex court also ruled that the Selangor state legislature was competent to legislate Section 16 of the Shariah Criminal Enactment 1995 because it was an offence against the precepts of Islam.

A five-man-panel led the current Chief Justice Raus Sharif also dismissed the petition brought by the company and Mohd Ezra to challenge the validity of the provision.

Mohd Ezra, the son of former Cabinet minister Zaid Ibrahim, was charged with the offence in the shariah lower court.

ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra then filed a judicial review application on July 9, 2012.

Among others, they applied for an order to nullify the action by the department’s officers who raided and seized 180 books on May 29 at ZI Publications in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

They also applied to nullify the arrest and prosecution of Mohd Ezra.