Federal Court allows woman leave to appeal in bid to be declared non-Muslim

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat allowed Rosliza Ibrahim’s application for leave to appeal against the High Court and Court of Appeal dismissal of her originating summons (OS) for a declaration that she was Buddhist and not a Muslim. — Reuters pic
A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat allowed Rosliza Ibrahim’s application for leave to appeal against the High Court and Court of Appeal dismissal of her originating summons (OS) for a declaration that she was Buddhist and not a Muslim. — Reuters pic

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 20 — The Federal Court here today granted leave to appeal to a woman born to a Muslim father but raised as a Buddhist by her Buddhist mother, who is seeking to be declared a non-Muslim.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat allowed Rosliza Ibrahim’s application for leave to appeal against the High Court and Court of Appeal dismissal of her originating summons (OS) for a declaration that she was Buddhist and not a Muslim.

In a unanimous decision, she (Justice Tengku Maimun) granted the leave to appeal on two legal questions for determination by the Federal Court.

Justice Tengku Maimun also directed that the court papers pertaining to the case be served to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Federal Court judges Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim were the other two judges presiding on the bench.

The two questions of law are: Where the subject matter of a cause or matter requires a determination of “whether a person is or is not a Muslim under the law” rather than “whether a person is no longer a Muslim”, whether the High Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine the said subject matter on a proper interpretation of Article 121 and Item 1 of the State List of the Federal Constitution?

And, in the light of Regulation 24 (1) of the National Registration Regulations 1990 and where the truth of the contents of any written application for registration of an identity card or the contents of any identity card is not proven by affidavit or a trial, whether the said contents of status is under section 41 of the Specific Act 1950?

Earlier, lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram representing Rosliza argued that her matter was not a renunciation case as she was never a Muslim, adding that the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

He said Rosliza’s mother had given a statutory declaration before she died, stating that she and Rosliza’s father were never married and that Rosliza was never raised as a Muslim.

Selangor state legal adviser Datuk Masri Mohd Daud appearing for the Selangor Government and lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah representing the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) have respectively objected to the application for leave to appeal. Mais was made intervener in the matter.

Both Masri and Sulaiman respectively argued that the matter was under the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court to decide.

Rosliza, 38, filed the OS in 2015 for a declaration that she was born out of wedlock to a Muslim father and her late Buddhist mother.

She claimed that she was not a Muslim and therefore the Syariah courts had no jurisdiction over her. She claimed she was raised a Buddhist by her late mother.

On June 22, 2017, the Shah Alam High Court then judicial commissioner Datuk Seri Tun Abd Majid Tun Hamzah (now High Court judge) dismissed Rosliza’s OS on grounds that the evidence produced by Rosliza only showed that no marriage registration was made, adding that failure to register a marriage was not proof that there was no such marriage.

He said the evidence produced by Rosliza failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that she was not a Muslim at birth and he (Tun Abd Majid) said he was of the view that she was born a Muslim.

Tun Abd Majid said her case was under the Syariah Court’s jurisdiction and not the Civil High Court.

Rosliza had gone to the religious authorities of 10 other states and managed to get their confirmation that they did not have any records of her mother converting to become a Muslim, or of a Muslim marriage between her parents.

She lost her appeal which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on April 25, 2018. — Bernama

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