Bar: Contempt of court to continue using ‘bin Abdullah’

George-Varughese_jpn_law_600

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar says the National Registration Department’s (NRD) decision to continue adding the surname “bin Abdullah” when registering a Muslim child whose parents are not married, is in contempt of court and cannot be condoned.

In a statement today, Bar president George Varughese noted that the government had filed an appeal against the Court of Appeal decision, adding that this was within its rights.

“However, until and unless there is an order for a stay of execution of that decision and/or the decision is reversed by the Federal Court, it is incumbent on all parties to respect and comply with the decision,” he said.

On July 25, 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 the names of such children.

“We believe Islam does not condone such open and public humiliation of an innocent child,” wrote Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli, one of the three members of the bench.

He also said the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA) made no distinction between a Muslim child and a non-Muslim child.

On July 28, however, NRD director-general Yazid Ramli said the department would continue adding the surname “bin Abdullah” when registering such children.

He said the NRD had filed an appeal with the Federal Court through the Attorney-General’s Chambers and that any changes to the practice would depend on the Federal Court’s ruling on the matter.

Othman Mustapha, the director-general of the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) reportedly voiced support for the NRD’s stand, as did Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, who is also the home minister, said Muslims should be united to ensure any decision made by the National Fatwa Committee was not challenged by any party or legal system.

“We are not against other religions, but matters pertaining to Islam should not be touched on. Let Muslims manage the affairs of their religion,” he had said.

Varughese said the statements by the NRD director-general, the director-general of Jakim and the deputy prime minister “imply the intention to defy the Court of Appeal decision, and are thus in contempt of court, which cannot be condoned”.

He added that all parties, especially the authorities, should abide by the Court of Appeal decision and respect the judiciary and the administration of justice.

“To do otherwise would be an affront to the rule of law, and would lead Malaysia down the path of lawlessness,” he said.

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