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Thursday May 31, 2007

Judge: It’s illegal and unreasonable

PUTRAJAYA: Illegal and unreasonable. This was how Justice Richard Malanjum described the insistence of the National Registration Department (NRD) for Lina Joy to obtain a certificate of apostasy from the Federal Territory Syariah Court or any Islamic authority. 

The Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak said that under applicable law, the Syariah Court in the Federal Territory has no statutory power to adjudicate on the issue of apostasy. 

“The (NRD) insistence is unreasonable for it requires an act that is almost impossible to perform,” he said. 

Justice Malanjum alleged that NRD’s unreasonableness would have consequential effects in some states where apostasy is a criminal offence. 

“Hence, to expect the appellant (Lina) to apply for a certificate of apostasy – when to do so would likely expose her to a range of offences under the Islamic law – is, in my view, unreasonable.” 

Disagreeing with the Court of Appeal’s majority judgment, he said it completely disregarded the fact that Lina had made several applications for a change of name. Therefore, it should be regarded as a continuing act. 

He said to confine the matter to Lina’s third application was completely ignoring her dealings with the NRD. 

He agreed with submissions by Lina’s counsel that if the NRD had correctly acted on her choice of religion for a replacement identity card (in October 1999) instead of rejecting it on the grounds she had not produced a certificate of apostasy, there would have been no necessity for the last application to correct the particulars as regards to entry of “religion.” 

Others reasons stated by Justice Malanjum include: 

> NRD’s implementation of its policy has a bearing on Lina’s fundamental constitution right to freedom of religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. 

> NRD director-general was wrong in stating that apostasy was exclusively within the realm of the Syariah Court as apostasy involves complex questions of constitutional importance.  


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