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Lawyers question govt’s plans for shariah prosecution dept
Published on: Saturday, February 24, 2024
By: FMT, V Anbalagan
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Lawyers question govt’s plans for shariah prosecution dept
Deputy religious affairs minister Zulkifli Hassan said the government will establish a shariah prosecution department to strengthen the country’s Islamic law ecosystem.
PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have called on the government to explain plans to set up a shariah prosecution department given that the shariah courts and offences fall within the jurisdiction of each individual state in the federation.

They said that unlike federal laws such as the Penal Code, Subordinate Courts Act and the Courts of Judicature Act which apply to throughout Malaysia, every state has its own shariah criminal law enactment.

Lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader described the federal government’s proposal as “drastic”, saying he was “unclear” how the department would operate.

“Each state has its own set of laws and agencies to govern Muslims in their territories. I am not sure how the department will fit in,” he told FMT.

Akberdin was commenting after deputy minister in charge of religious affairs Zulkifli Hasan said the department would be set up to strengthen the nation’s shariah legal ecosystem.

Zulkifli said this would include amending the existing Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

Currently, the statute empowers shariah courts to impose a maximum jail term of three years, a fine of not more RM5,000 fine and up to six strokes of the rotan on those found guilty of offences like khalwat, not fasting during Ramadan and not attending Friday prayers.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar said the shariah unit in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is presently only tasked with helping to streamline existing state enactments.

“Under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution, the Attorney-General only has power to begin and drop criminal charges in the civil courts – not in the shariah court, native court or court-martial,” he added.

He also said the Federal Court has ruled that under the Federal Constitution, it is Parliament that has primacy over criminal law.

Lawyer Fahri Azzat said the AGC is part of the federal government and has no role to play in implementing an Islamic system of laws in Malaysia.

“Doing so is contrary to the 1988 Supreme Court decision of Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor,” he said, adding that the basis of the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, is secular law.

Fahri, who sits on the Bar Council, said confusion has arisen over the matter recently as those presently engaged in discussions about the constitution have little or no knowledge of its history, development and the principles that govern its reading.

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