KUALA LUMPUR, February 21 – Civil society organization Sisters In Islam (SIS) has welcomed the Federal Court’s decision today to declare unconstitutional the attempt by the Selangor State Legislative Assembly to empower the Sharia courts to carry out judicial reviews of the decisions of Islamic authorities.
SIS Executive Director Rozana Isa also called “groundbreaking” the Federal Court’s assertion that judicial review remains the inherent right of civil courts as well as its interpretation of the definition of Muslims as natural persons.
“The decision of the Federal Court to strike down Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Selangor State) Act 2003 (ARIE) for unconstitutionality is proof that the Federal Constitution is supreme and that the state cannot override and exclude the judiciary from the decision-making process. Now that this case is resolved, we can now focus on our pending appeal in the Court of Appeal,” she said in a statement. communicated today.
“The Federal Court affirms that judicial review is an inherent right of civil courts. The judgment also indicated that the interpretation of the courts on the definition of Muslims as natural persons was also revolutionary.
“However, we are also cautious about the judgment of the Federal Court on the issue of the content of the fatwa which has been decided as still being within the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts.”
Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Selangor State) Promulgation 2003 is the law of the State of Selangor which attempted to give the Sharia courts in Selangor the power to hear and decide on judicial reviews of decisions made by people such as the Islamic Religious Council of Selangor. (But) and the fatwa committee of Selangor.
This is what Section 66A – which was declared invalid today by the Federal Court – states: “The Sharia High Court may, in the interests of justice, on the application of any person, have jurisdiction to grant leave and to hear the application for judicial review of the decision taken by the Majlis or the committees exercising the functions provided for in this Act.”
Earlier today, a panel of nine Federal Court judges unanimously ruled that the Selangor state legislature does not have the power to enact legislation giving sharia courts power to carry out judicial checks on the decisions of the Islamic authorities.
Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who chaired the panel, said the Federal Court finds that Section 66A of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Selangor State) Act 2003 – the Selangor state law that attempted to give Sharia courts the power to hear and decide judicial reviews — be contrary to the Federal Constitution.
In January 2020, SIS Forum filed with the Federal Court for leave to challenge Section 66A and named the state government of Selangor as a defendant. The Federal Court later allowed the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) to intervene or become part of the case.
The Federal Court had in September 2020 allowed the application to be considered and the nine-judge panel heard on October 12 last year arguments from all those involved in the case.
In ruling in favor of the SIS Forum today, the Federal Court effectively granted what the company was asking for, namely, a declaration that Section 66A is invalid on the ground that it contains provisions regarding a matter on which the Selangor State Legislature does not have the power to legislate, and that Section 66A is therefore null and void.