PUTRAJAYA — Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat today reminded lawyers involved in the hearing of the constitutional challenge by two Muslim women over 18 provisions in the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019 to refrain from commenting on the case.
At the onset of today’s hearing, Maimun, who chaired the Federal Court’s nine-member bench, said lawyers were bound by the etiquette of their profession and it is not appropriate for them to discuss pending cases at a public forum.
She said the court took the unusual step of making the observation because so much had been said by so many people on the petition before the court and much of what had been said was the distorted version of the real issue before the court.
“As we have stated from the outset of the hearing on 17 August, the issue is not about undermining the position of Islam or the Syariah Courts in the country. The issue arising out of the petition is simply about the competency of the Kelantan State Legislative Assembly to enact the impugned provisions,” she added.
The said the statement that “Mahkamah Syariah akan berkubur di Malaysia” (The Syariah Court will be buried in Malaysia) is untrue.
Uphold rule of law
Maimum said this in response to a statement made by lawyer Mohd Yusfarizal Yussoff, representing the Terengganu Islamic Religion and Malay Customs Council that it was crucial for one to understand the challenge of the powers of the Syariah Court before it becomes buried like a “batu nisan” (tombstone).
“Subject to whatever reply Yusfarizal wishes to make to this, we would like to remind lawyers that you are bound by the ethics of your profession and you know very well that it is not appropriate to discuss pending cases at a public forum, more so when you [have] failed to disclose the full facts of the case.
“We would remind everyone in this courtroom in particular to uphold the rule of law, and not to incite the sentiment of the public. We urged lawyers to argue the case based on the issues before us,” she added.
Earlier, Justice Maimun said the court took note of the petitioners’s application in respect of some statements allegedly made by Yusfarizal.
She asked Yusfarizal if he had indeed made the statement as cited in the petitioner’s affidavit, to which Yusfarizal responded that he needed to check the transcript and was unsure of the exact wording that was used.
Challenge the constitutionality
The bench, which also comprises Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Sebli and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan, Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais, had fixed today to resume hearing of the women’s petition.
On 17 August, the court heard submissions from lawyers Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar representing Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid and her daughter Tengku Yasmin Nastasha Abdul Rahman and lawyer Datuk Kamaruzaman Muhamad Arif, who appeared for the Kelantan government.
The Kelantan-born lawyer and her daughter filed the petition to challenge the constitutionality and validity of 18 provisions in the Enactment.
They claimed the Legislature of the State of Kelantan did not have the power to enact laws on the 18 offences as there are federal laws covering the same offences.
They filed the petition directly to the Federal Court under Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution and named the Kelantan state government as the sole respondent. On 30 September, 2022, the Federal Court granted the two women leave to commence their constitutional challenge.
In today’s proceedings, lawyers appearing for the Perak Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPK), the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) which is allowed to intervene in the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court), Sisters in Islam, Muslim Lawyers Association of Malaysia and the Malaysian Bar, made their submissions.
Justice Maimun then told parties that the court reserved its decision to a date to be fixed later.
More than 1,000 people mostly PAS supporters gathered outside the Palace of Justice as early as 8 am today in anticipation of a decision.
PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, its vice-president Idris Ahmad and secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan were among them — Bernama