Fatwa challenge: Apex court will rule on civil court’s rights

Court-PutrajayaPUTRAJAYA: The Selangor government and its state Islamic authorities filed 11 legal questions to determine whether the civil court has jurisdiction to hear a constitutional challenge to a “fatwa” (religious edict).

Lawyer Farhan Haziq Mohamed said the Federal Court has now fixed July 11 to determine whether leave ought to be given for the apex court to hear the merit of the appeal.

“Leave will only be given to the applicants if the questions raised has any effect to provisions in the Federal Constitution or raised for the first time for public advantage,” he told FMT after a case management before deputy registrar Jumirah Marzuki.

Haziq appeared for Islamic non-governmental organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS), the group’s co-founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and former federal minister Mohd Zaid Ibrahim, who are the respondents.

Lawyer Majdah Muda appeared for the Selangor Religious Affairs Council (MAIS) while Naziah Mokhtar represented the Selangor Fatwa Committee and the state government, who are the applicants.

On March 2, the Court of Appeal said the civil court had jurisdiction to hear SIS’ complaint.

A three-man bench chaired by Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat also ordered the merit of the case to be heard before a new judge.

On June 24 last year, Justice Hanipah Farikullah had ruled that civil courts had no power to hear cases pertaining to religious matters such as “fatwa”.

She had said the civil court had no jurisdiction to grant the remedies the NGO was seeking as the issue of “fatwa” was under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Shariah Court.

On Oct 31, 2014, SIS, Zainah and Zaid filed an application for the High Court to revoke the “fatwa” decision.

The state religious council declared in a “fatwa” that SIS subscribed to liberalism and religious pluralism, and, therefore, had deviated from the teachings of Islam.