MAY 16 — It’s about time that a statement is made from the bench of the highest court of the land that the Shariah courts are not “inferior” to civil courts.

On May 3, in a 2:1 majority decision, the Federal Court ruled that a 37-year-old woman born to a Hindu father and a Buddhist mother failed in her final appeal to overturn a Court of Appeal decision to reinstate her as a Muslim.

The two judges who dismissed the woman’s ongoing appeal were President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim who chaired the three-judge panel, and Federal Court judge Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.

The sole dissenting judge was Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan.

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The woman was appealing against a 2:1 majority decision of the Court of Appeal which reversed a High Court’s declaration sought by her that she is “not a person professing the religion of Islam”. The declaration was granted on December 21, 2021.

The three Federal Court judges have delivered separate written judgments, which are available on the Federal Courts’s eJudgment Management System.

In his judgment, Abu Bakar Jais FCJ said:

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“I am also aware there are expressed views that say Syariah Courts are inferior courts, thus making it possible at least by deduction to review its decisions. I respectfully depart from those opinions as I would show in due course other case law authorities that do not find Syariah Courts as being inferior.”

After referring to the case law authorities supporting his view, the learned apex court judge said:

“I disagree that Shariah Courts are inferior courts .... Both Shariah Courts and Civil Courts are recognised under our Federal Constitution. After all, each state in the country makes up the Federation and stands tall in the formation of Malaysia. Their institutions should not come secondary to the ones established under the central administration.”

It’s about time that a statement is made from the bench of the highest court of the land that the Shariah courts are not inferior to civil courts. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak
It’s about time that a statement is made from the bench of the highest court of the land that the Shariah courts are not inferior to civil courts. ― Picture by Azneal Ishak

In February 2022, I said that the Shariah courts are state courts. But should they be “inferior courts”?

I said that the Shariah courts should not be inferior courts.

A Federal Court judge has now said that the Shariah courts are not inferior to the civil courts.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.