PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has fixed Jan 16 to hear the appeal of a 37-year-old woman who is challenging her status as a Muslim.
Her lawyer, A Surendra Ananth, said the new date was fixed after the scheduled appeal hearing last Friday was vacated as counsel for one of the parties was indisposed.
The Selangor state assistant legal adviser appeared for the government while lawyer Majdah Muda represented the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais).
In a split decision on Jan 13, the Court of Appeal allowed the government and Mais to reinstate the woman as being of the Muslim faith.
On May 23, the Federal Court allowed her application for leave to appeal based on six questions of law.
Among others, she wants the apex court to determine whether an “invalid” shariah court order can be challenged “collaterally” in the civil courts and whether Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution is applicable. The provision touches on the civil courts having no jurisdiction in shariah matters.
She also wants the court to rule whether Section 74(3) of Selangor’s Administration of Islamic Law Enactment 1989 bars the civil courts from deciding on unilateral conversion cases involving children.
The woman, who originally professed the Hindu faith, was still a child when she was converted to Islam unilaterally by her mother.
Born in 1986, she said the conversion took place in 1991 at the Selangor Islamic religious department’s (Jais) office while her parents were in the midst of a divorce, which was finalised a year later.
Her mother went on to marry a Muslim man in 1993, and her father died in an accident three years later.
The woman contends that despite her conversion to Islam, her mother and stepfather allowed her to continue practising the Hindu faith.
In 2021, the Shah Alam High Court granted a declaration that she was not a Muslim.
However, Mais succeeded in getting the Court of Appeal to reinstate her as a Muslim. Justices Yaacob Sam and Nazlan Ghazali ruled in favour of Mais while Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru dissented.
The majority on the bench held that civil courts were not empowered to hear cases involving the renunciation of religion.
It noted that she had previously filed a suit in the Kuala Lumpur shariah court, seeking a declaration that she was “no longer a Muslim”, which was rejected.
The woman brought the present civil court action after the shariah court handed down its decision.
In his minority judgment, Ravindra said the 1952 enactment expressly prohibited the conversion of children from a civil marriage.