High Court says no jurisdiction over wakaf matters

Abdul Cauder descendant Muhamad Amin Abdul Rahman (left) with his lawyer Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail.

GEORGE TOWN: The High Court today ruled that a piece of wakaf land in Butterworth being claimed by a family was rightfully held by the Islamic authorities.

Judicial commissioner Amarjeet Singh said the Wakaf Abdul Cauder matter is also off-limits to the civil courts and should go to the shariah courts as per an earlier Federal Court ruling.

“Civil courts have no jurisdiction in wakaf matters,” he said.

The decision concerned an originating summons brought by Muhamad Amin Abdul Rahman, who had sued the Penang Islamic Religious Council and two others, claiming the council’s takeover of his family land was illegal.

Amin is a descendent of the Abdul Cauder family, which owned the 1.09ha plot of land in Jalan Mengkuang, Butterworth, now known as Wakaf Abdul Cauder.

He had sought a court declaration that he is the rightful heir to the property, according to the will of his grandmother Kavana Ebrahim @ Burong.

The land was originally owned by Kavana’s husband, Abdul Cauder.

Amin said this was in line with Kavana’s deed of trust dated Aug 17, 1892, in which her descendants were to be made trustees of the land.

Kavana’s will states that the land is to be given for wakaf purposes “so long as she lives”.

But Amin said following her death, the land could no longer be allotted for wakaf and should be handed to the trustees or heirs since the 1892 deed falls under the Trustee Act 1949.

In his decision today, Amarjeet said the family had lost ownership of the land to the Muslim endowment authorities as early as 1919, by virtue of it being held by the Mohamedan and Hindu Endowments Board (MEHB) at the time.

MEHB is now known as the Hindu Endowments Board. Muslim endowments have been administered by state Islamic authorities since independence.

Amarjeet also allowed RM5,000 in costs despite the initial request by the defence team comprising lawyers Mohamad Aslam Mohamad Mydin and Ayu Rohaiza Khazali for RM40,000.

Amin’s lawyer Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail told reporters outside the court that they would pursue an appeal and file a fresh case at the shariah court.

Amin meanwhile said he would remain strong and voiced hope that the appellate court would look into the will left by his grandmother.