PETALING JAYA: The National Registration Department’s (NRD) decision to continue the practice of adding the surname “bin/binti Abdullah” to a Muslim child born out of wedlock or within six months of his/her parent’s marriage, constitutes a contempt of court, says a lawyer.
Azhar Harun, better known as Art Harun, claimed the decision showed an utter contempt towards the judiciary, with the NRD director-general Yazid Ramli insisting on continuing the practice which had been outlawed through a ruling made by the Court of Appeal on Thursday.
“We have a government which does not respect the laws enacted by the Parliament, and then it goes on to ignore the judgment by the Judiciary.
“The rule of law, which is supposed to be executed by the court and practised by all, especially government institutions, will be nothing but an accessory,” Art wrote in a strongly-worded statement posted on his Facebook page today.
He added that such contempt only weakened the status of the judiciary and the rule of law in the country.
Yesterday, Yazid said the NRD had filed an appeal with the Federal Court through the Attorney-General’s Chambers, following the Court of Appeal decision against the practice.
“Any changes to the practice will depend on the Federal Court’s ruling on the matter,” he said.
Yazid also defended the NRD’s actions, stating it was adhering to a High Court ruling on the matter. However, he made no reference as to when the ruling was made or what case the ruling was about.
“We are also following the stand taken by the National Fatwa Council,” he said.
The NRD’s practice was based on two fatwas (religious edicts) issued by the fatwa body in 1981 and 2003 that was in conflict with Section 13A(2) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA), which allows the father of an illegitimate child to put his name as the child’s surname.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal said the NRD had acted outside its powers when it used the surname “Abdullah” to register a Muslim child born out of wedlock against the mother’s wish to use the father’s name.
In a written judgment, delivered two months after the court ruled in favour of the parents of the child, it also questioned the practice of adding the surname “bin Abdullah” to such children.
Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli said the NRD director-general had acted irrationally when it registered the child with the surname “Abdullah” in the birth certificate, against the wishes of the mother.
Other members of the bench were Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Zaleha Yusof.
He also said the BDRA made no distinction between a Muslim child and a non-Muslim child.
“Section 13A(2) does not say that an illegitimate Muslim child must be treated differently from a non-Muslim child when it comes to the registration of a surname,” he wrote.