Wait for written judgment before commenting on SIS ruling, says lawyer

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has called for moderation in the public response to a court ruling last week that a women’s rights group registered as a company must go to the Shariah Court to challenge a fatwa issued against it by the Selangor religious authorities.

Farhan Haziq Mohamed urged all parties to wait for the written grounds of judge Nordin Hassan before expressing their views on the matter.

“In the written judgment, we will be able to see on what grounds the judge dismissed Sisters in Islam’s (SIS) application for judicial review, and the case laws he relied on in coming to a conclusion,” he told FMT.

Even if Nordin had committed an error in judgment, he added, SIS still had recourse against the ruling.

“Another High Court judge is not bound to follow Nordin’s ruling, given the same facts and situation faced by SIS.”

In any case, Farhan said, the matter would likely be taken to the Court of Appeal and then finally to the Federal Court where it would be heard by a seven- or nine-member bench.

SIS, the group’s co-founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and former federal minister Zaid Ibrahim had in 2014 filed a legal challenge after SIS was declared a deviant group by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council.

On Aug 27, Nordin said the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear SIS’ complaint. He said the decision by the state fatwa committee was in accordance with state enactments.

“The Federal Constitution under Article 121A says matters related to shariah law should be under the jurisdiction of state laws.

“The civil courts have no jurisdiction to hear issues related to shariah state laws,” Nordin said in his oral ruling, adding that SIS, which is registered as a company, comes under the state religious authorities.

SIS’ lawyer Surendra Ananth said he was awaiting instruction from the group to lodge an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

“We have 30 days to file the notice of appeal,” he said, adding that Nordin would have to make his written grounds available once the appeal is filed.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al-Mahdzar said it was likely that the issue of whether a fatwa issued by a state religious authority binds a company would go to the Federal Court.

“I am sure SIS will take its battle up to the apex court to get a final and decisive verdict,” he said.

He added that the High Court ruling was only a setback for SIS. The most important thing, he said, would be the ruling of the Federal Court which would involve a larger panel due to the expected impact on the constitution.

“The subject matter raised by SIS will be closely followed by all as the jurisdiction of the civil court and religious court has come into play again,” he said.