PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has reserved its ruling over the application for leave by the publisher of the Herald to challenge the Home Minister’s ban over the use of word “Allah” to refer to the Christian god.
Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria said the seven-man panel would reserve judgment on the application after hearing submissions by various parties.
With him on the panel are Court of Appeal president Justice Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Zainun Ali and Jeffrey Tan.
The publisher – the titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur – posted 28 administrative law, constitutional law and general questions to get leave from the apex court for deliberation.
The applicant’s lead counsel Datuk Dr Cyrus V. Das argued that there was uncertainty over the provision of law pertaining to the minister’s power in issuing the prohibition order over the use of the word in the publication.
“There is uncertainty over the source of the minister’s power over the use of the word in confining to Muslims and not others. They use absolute discretion to justify the ban by the minister,” he said.
Dr Das submitted that the finding by the Court of Appeal that the use of word was not an essential and integral part of the Christian faith had created anxiety and uncertainty in the bumiputra Christian community of Sabah and Sarawak and Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian congregations in the peninsula.
Senior Federal Counsel Suzana Atan from the Attorney-General’s Chambers said: “The law is clear that in cases of national security, such matters should not be made subject of evidence in a court of law or otherwise discussed in public.”
She submitted that as the matter concerns judicial review of a minister’s decision based on national security and public order, the constitutional law questions would not reverse the decision while administrative questions should be dismissed by the court as they did not fall within the principle of law.
“The decision of the Court of Appeal is based on the discharge of the minister’s function and statutory power under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984,” she said.
Lawyer Mubashir Mansor, who acted for the Federal Territories and Selangor Islamic religious councils, argued that the minister had no right to allow the use of the word to Herald and that only the Rulers have the power to do so.
Others who made submissions were lawyers for the Terengganu Islamic and Malay Custom Council and the Chinese Muslim Association.
The Court of Appeal on Oct 14 last year prohibited the Catholic weekly from using the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian god.
The minister and the Government had appealed against the Dec 31, 2009 High Court decision quashing the minister’s ban order.