Registration Department can follow state Islamic laws, says Federal Court

The Federal Court rules that the National Registration Department (JPN) can recognise Islamic laws in carrying out its functions.

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today affirmed that the National Registration Department (JPN) can recognise Islamic laws in the exercise of its duty and powers.

Judge Rohana Yusof said a previous Federal Court majority judgment in 2007 in the case of Lina Joy v Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan & Ors had examined this issue.

In that case, the main issue was whether the JPN had acted in accordance with the law when it rejected Lina Joy’s request to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card .

Joy, whose Muslim name is Azlina Jailani, had applied to remove the word “Islam” from her identity card and tendered a statutory declaration to support her application that she was no longer a Muslim.

The JPN refused to accept her application on the grounds that it was incomplete without an order from the Shariah Court to the effect that she had renounced Islam.

Judge Rohana Yusof.

Rohana said the majority 2-1 decision found that the refusal of the JPN to act without the approval of the Islamic religious authority was reasonable.

“That remains the legal position of this country till today and there is no good reason for this court now to depart from that clear legal ruling made earlier by this court,” he said.

Rohana said it was again a prescription of the Federal Constitution that Muslims in this country were subject to the general laws enacted by Parliament as well as Islamic state laws enacted by the legislatures of each state.

She said this authority to legislate included the power to create and punish offences by Muslims.

“Legitimacy of a Muslim person is one of the areas in which the state legislature is authorised by the Federal Constitution to enact as state law,” she added.

Her remarks were contained in the majority ruling that ordered the JPN to remove the word “bin Abdullah” from the birth certificate of a Muslim illegitimate child born in Johor.

The Federal Court also ruled that the boy, born out of wedlock, could not use his biological father’s name, labelled as MEMK to conceal the identity of the litigants.

Rohana, Azahar Mohamad, Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Idrus Harun, who made up the majority, also held that the JPN was correct to refuse to allow the boy to use his biological father’s name, in relying on a provision in the Johor state enactment governing Muslims.

However, judges David Wong Dak Wah, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Nallini Pathmanathan, who dissented, took the position that the boy could use the father’s name.

Rohana said both MEMK and his spouse NAW were Muslims and were married under the Islamic law and the birth of the child occurred in Johor.

“They are subjected to the Islamic law as found in the state of Johor,” she said.

The boy was born in 2009 but his birth was only registered two years later under Section 12 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act or BDRA. He was born less than six months after the parents’ marriage, which is considered illegitimate under shariah law.

The parents applied to the JPN to register the father’s name on the birth certificate under Section 13 of the BDRA but it carried “bin Abdullah” instead.

JPN refused to substitute it with the father’s name – despite an application made to remove “bin Abdullah” – on the grounds the child was illegitimate.

This resulted in the parents seeking a legal redress in the High Court in 2016.