PUTRAJAYA, Feb 22 — The Putrajaya Shariah court said today it will defer its ruling on whether to drop Muslim intellectual Kassim Ahmad’s charges of insulting Islam and defying religious authorities until a final decision by the Federal Court is reached.
Putrajaya Syariah High Court judge Azzeman Omar noted that both the civil High Court and Court of Appeal have given their respective decisions in Kassim’s case, with the former favouring Islamic prosecutors and the latter favouring Kassim, but the Federal Court has yet to dispose of the matter.
"Therefore, the court finds that all decisions made before this — whether in the High Court or Court of Appeal, there is no final decision yet.
"Therefore, for the sake of justice, the court postpones the decision until the case at the Federal Court is decided," he said.
The cane-wielding Kassim, who turns 83 this September, was present in court with his family today.
The Shariah case will come up for mention again this November 1.
Earlier, Kassim's lead counsel Rosli Dahlan had argued that there was no proper appeal at the Federal Court, as only an unsealed copy of a court document was served on his client and no court dates were fixed for case management or hearing.
He also said the Federal Court had not granted leave for appeal.
Senior Shariah prosecutor Zainor Rashid argued, however, that the leave for appeal has been registered at the Federal Court and that they could not press the courts to fix case management dates.
When met outside the court, Kassim said it appears the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) wants its "pound of flesh" from him, arguing that the charges against him should have been dropped in line with the Court of Appeal's ruling.
In March 2014, Kassim was charged at the Shariah High Court in Putrajaya with insulting Islam and defying religious authorities at a seminar in February that was officiated by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Kassim had then pleaded not guilty to two separate charges under Section 7(b) and Section 9 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 that both carry a maximum fine of RM3,000 or imprisonment up to two years, or both.
This January 18, Kassim's lawyer Rosli Dahlan had reportedly told the Shariah court that his client should be either freed from the two Shariah charges or given a discharge not amounting to acquittal, in light of a ruling by the Court of Appeal.
But the Federal Territory Chief Syarie Prosecutor Mohammad Adib Husain had then said that an appeal will be filed at the Federal Court.
On January 20, the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) and three others filed an application with the Federal Court for leave of appeal to reverse the Court of Appeal’s ruling favouring Kassim.
On December 21 last year, a three-man panel at the Court of Appeal unanimously found JAWI's actions on Kassim ― including a cross-border arrest using a defective warrant, a detention exceeding 24 hours without access to lawyers, his prosecution in the Shariah courts ― to be illegal.
The four respondents in Kassim’s judicial review bid are the minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, JAWI, then Federal Territory Chief Syarie Prosecutor Ibrahim Deris and the government.
Kassim’s challenge argued that the Islamic authority had acted with illegality, irrationality, procedural impropriety, unconstitutionality, ultra vires or acting beyond powers, abuse of discretionary power and unreasonable exercise of power.