Religious authorities not fighting appeals court’s ZI Publications ruling

Ezra-ZaidKUALA LUMPUR: The Selangor Islamic religious authorities have abandoned their plan to appeal a Court of Appeal ruling ordering the hearing of a judicial review by a publisher of a controversial book, and its director.

Lawyer Farhan Haziq Mohamad, who appeared for ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and its director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid, said lawyers for the Islamic religious authorities informed the court of this today.

“The court has now fixed Aug 28 to hear the merit of the case,” Haziq told reporters after a case management before justice Kamaludin Md Said.

He said Kamaludin also ordered the parties to file their written submissions on Aug 14.

It was earlier reported that the state religious authorities were toying with the idea of filing a leave application in the Federal Court to appeal against the April 26 Court of Appeal ruling.

A three-man bench chaired by Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said the High Court judge had erred in allowing a preliminary objection in the case involving the Selangor Islamic Religious Department raiding and seizing books from ZI Publications.

Tengku Maimun said the objection raised by the religious authorities was related to a constitutionality issue and not other related matters.

The bench also ordered the merit of the judicial review to be heard before a new judge.

Last September, justice Hanipah Farikullah turned down the judicial review by ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra to challenge a raid carried out by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department in 2012 to seize translated copies of the book “Allah, Kebebasan dan Cinta”, authored by Irshad Manji.

Hanipah made the decision after allowing a preliminary objection.

ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra had named the department, its director-general, enforcement chief, Selangor Syarie prosecution chief, the Selangor government and the Malaysian government as respondents.

The judge agreed with 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 are 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.

A five-man panel led by the current chief justice, Raus Sharif, 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 lower shariah court.

ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra 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, 2012, at ZI Publications in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Their application was also for the return of the seized 388-page books.

Besides that, they also applied for a certiorari order to nullify the arrest on May 29, and prosecution of Mohd Ezra by the department.

In a separate legal challenge, they had gone straight to the Federal Court for a declaration that Section 16 of the Shariah Criminal Enactment regarding investigations on Mohd Ezra, should be voided, claiming it was inconsistent with Articles 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution.