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KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Any government agency’s refusal to abide by legal court rulings would damage the rule of law, said lawyers.
The legal practitioners all disapproved of the National Registration Department’s (NRD) rebuff of a decision allowing illegitimate Muslim children to bear their biological fathers’ names, saying this was blatantly contemptuous of the Court of Appeal.
Short of securing a stay of the ruling, they insist the agency must observe the appellate court’s decision despite contesting the outcome.
“The NRD’s decision to disregard the decision of the CoA is illegal and in contempt. There is no justifiable excuse as to why the decision of the CoA is not immediately adhered to,” Datuk Geethan Ram Vincent told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
He also criticised NRD director-general Datuk Yazid Ramli who said his agency will continue with the convention of using “Abdullah” as the father’s name in cases of illegitimate Muslim births, pending the outcome of the appeal to the Federal Court.
Geethan explained that Yazid did not have the prerogative to decide which rulings he would abide by or otherwise.
“His duty under the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA) is merely to register births and deaths in the states of Peninsular Malaysia. He is bound to follow the law and nothing else,” he said critically.
Similar views were expressed by lawyers Dinesh Muthal and Syahredzan Johan, a former Bar Council member.
Calling the court ruling clear and the obligation to observe the decision as unambiguous, Dinesh raised the possible chaos that would ensue if government agencies were free to choose which laws they would prefer to obey.
“The court has already given an order, so it is the duty of a public office such as this to follow the order, and for them to choose not to follow, then what respect is there for the judiciary?” he said.
“Any government bodies including civilians are governed by the law. It’s as straightforward as that. That’s all.”
On Facebook, Syahredzan said any government that willingly disregards an unfavourable court ruling was one that “does not believe in the rule of law.”
The Court of Appeal on July 25 released the written judgment of their landmark decision that the NRD director-general is not obliged to apply and is not bound by fatwa or religious edicts when deciding on whether a Muslim child born out of wedlock could take on his father’s name.
It previously ruled that such a Muslim child has the right to bear his father’s name
The naming of Muslim children born out of wedlock using “Abdullah” in place of their father’s name in official documents from birth certificates to identity cards risks exposing them to the stigma of being illegitimate.