PUTRAJAYA: An appeal hearing by a woman for a declaration that she is a not a Muslim was vacated today after a lawyer appearing for a party came in close contact with a minister who tested positive for Covid-19.
Senior lawyer Sulaiman Abdullah, representing the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), made the application as the co-counsel, whose identity was kept confidential, has been quarantined.
Federal Court registrar Jumirah Marjuki said Chief Justice Tengku Maimum Tuan Mat, who was scheduled to lead a nine-member bench to hear the appeal, allowed the case to be adjourned.
“The rest of the parties had no objection to the application,” Jumirah told reporters, adding that case management would be held on Oct 27 to fix a new hearing date.
Rosliza Ibrahim, who was born to a Muslim father but raised as a Buddhist by her Buddhist mother, is seeking a declaration that she is a not a Muslim.
The government is brought in as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, to assist the judges in the proceeding.
Rosliza has taken the position that the Islamic laws of Selangor do not apply to her and that the shariah court has no jurisdiction over her.
She said it had been presumed that she had been born a Muslim, based on an assumption of a valid marriage between her parents and an assumption that her late mother had converted to Islam.
The High Court in Shah Alam had dismissed her suit in April 2017 on grounds that the evidence she produced had failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that she was not a Muslim at birth.
The court also ruled that her remedy was in the shariah court.
Rosliza said she had gone to the religious authorities in 10 other states and obtained confirmation that her parents did not have any records of her mother converting to Islam or that a Muslim marriage had taken place.
However, in 2018, the Court of Appeal affirmed the findings of the High Court.
Early this year, a three-member bench allowed Rosliza’s application for leave to appeal based on two legal questions.
They were whether the civil court had the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a person is or is not a Muslim under the law and whether any information contained in the identity card was conclusive proof that one is a Muslim.
Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, who appeared for Rosliza, said this appeal would also touch on the 1988 amendment to Article 121 of the Federal Constitution that was deemed unconstitutional as the basis structure of the charter was violated.
“The amendment has made the court subservient to Parliament. As a result, the doctrine of separation of powers was also violated,” he told reporters.
He said Rozliza’s case was an opportunity to revisit a 2007 case involving Lina Joy, a Muslim woman who sought, but failed, to be allowed to change her religion from Islam to Christianity.
The Federal Court had ruled that she must first obtain a certificate to leave the religion before presenting it to the National Registration Department for the word “Islam” to be removed from her identity card.