Federal Court rules Syariah Court has jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases

The scene outside the Federal Court in Kuching.

KUCHING, Feb 27:  The Federal Court today ruled that the Syariah Court has jurisdiction to hear four apostasy cases and struck out the appeal to have the cases heard in the civil court.

The five-member panel of judges, headed by Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and comprising Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Ahmad Maarop and Justices Hasan Lah, Jeffrey Tana and Ramli Ali made the unanimous decision.

Stressing that jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases was with the Syariah Court, Zulkefli explained that the judgment was made on the grounds that the case had no merit.

He further explained that even though there is no provision in the Sarawak Syariah Court Ordinance, there was a Section 68/69 in Majlis Islam Sarawak Ordinance that could be deployed by the Syariah Court to hear the apostasy cases.

There was no order to cost.

The four persons filing the appeal are Muslim-born Syarifah Nooraffyza Wan Hosen who had embraced Christianity in 2009, while the rest are Muslim converts Mohd Syafig Abdullah @ Tiong Choo Ting, Salina Jau Abdullah and Jenny Peter @ Nur Muzdhalifah Abdullah who wished to return to Christianity after their spouses passed away or following divorce.

On Sept 21, 2015, Tiong, Salina and Jenny’s cases were heard together and the High Court denied them leave that day.

Like in Syarifah Nooraffyza’s case, the High Court judge also agreed with the argument by the respondents that the civil High Court has no jurisdiction to hear apostasy cases.

The respondents are the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department director, the National Registration Department director-general, the Sarawak Islamic Council and the Sarawak government. — DayakDaily