Federal Court postpones hearing of Selangor woman’s appeal for declaration as non-Muslim due to Covid-19

The Federal Court was scheduled to hear this morning the appeal by Rosliza Ibrahim, who had previously said that she was raised a Buddhist and wants the court to declare that she is not a Muslim. — Reuters pic
The Federal Court was scheduled to hear this morning the appeal by Rosliza Ibrahim, who had previously said that she was raised a Buddhist and wants the court to declare that she is not a Muslim. — Reuters pic

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 6 — The Federal Court today deferred hearing an appeal by a Selangor woman who was born to a Muslim father and Buddhist mother but wants to be recognised as a non-Muslim, due to issues related to Covid-19.

The Federal Court was initially scheduled to hear this morning the appeal by 38-year-old Rosliza Ibrahim, who had previously said that she was raised a Buddhist and remains a Buddhist and wants the court to declare that she is not a Muslim.

Her appeal was against the Selangor state government, while Selangor Islamic Religious Council’s (Mais) is the intervener.

Before the appeal could be heard this morning, Mais’ lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah was understood to have made an application for the hearing to be adjourned as a member of Mais’ legal team is a close contact of a minister who had tested positive for Covid-19.

This member of Mais’ legal team was not sighted in the courtroom today, while Sulaiman was seen alone without other members of the legal team in sight for the hearing. Lawyers would typically have other lawyers present to assist them while presenting their arguments in court, including to handle the bundles of documents.

Based on information from Federal Court deputy assistant registrar Jumirah Marjuki, the rest of the parties involved today did not object to the request to defer the hearing and the application was granted by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who was chairing the panel of judges for this case.

Lawyer Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who represented Rosliza, said the application to adjourn the hearing was related to Covid-19 and that he did not object.

“I have no objection because it could happen to anyone. This sort of incident can happen to anyone,” he told reporters when met at the Federal Court.

The case has now been fixed for case management on October 27.

This is not the first time that court proceedings in cases have been deferred or postponed due to matters linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, with other cases in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur previously also experiencing such disruptions.

Rosliza’s legal battle began in 2015 when she filed her lawsuit in the High Court against the Selangor state government to seek several court declarations, including a declaration that she was born as an illegitimate child to her Buddhist mother, as well as a declaration that she is not a Muslim and all Selangor state laws for Muslims do not apply to her and that Selangor Shariah courts have no jurisdiction over her.

She had also wanted a court declaration that the putative father of an illegitimate child does not fall under the definition of “parents” in the interpretation of “Muslim” in Section 2 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003. Under Section 2, someone who had at least one parent who was Muslim at their time of birth will be considered to be a Muslim.

At the High Court, Rosliza had shown proof that Selangor, Federal Territories and 10 other states (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis and Terengganu) do not have any records of her mother converting to become a Muslim or of her biological parents entering into a Muslim marriage.

Rosliza had also presented to the court her late mother’s October 8, 2008 statutory declaration of not being married to Rosliza’s father when she was born.

The High Court however dismissed Rosliza’s case.

Rosliza then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which in April 2018 dismissed her appeal.

In January, the Federal Court granted leave for Rosliza to proceed with her appeal and for two legal questions to be heard.

Those two questions of law were initially due to be heard today.

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