PETALING JAYA: The Selangor Islamic Religious Department's (Jais) raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) is illegal because its officers do not have the power to search premises and seize items, says a senior lawyer.
Lawyer Edmund Bon said the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 failed to spell out powers for “authorised” officers to search premises and seize items.
“This means that the raid is illegal if it was carried out under this Enactment.
“Only Section 12 of the Enactment provides the power to investigate and this is to be read with Section 13 and 14,” he said when contacted Wednesday.
However, Bon said neither Sections 13 or 14 empowered any search or seizure of items.
This is contrary to Selangor executive councillor for Islamic Affairs Sallehen Mukhyi, who had said on Monday that the raid was legal and was in accordance with Jais’ standard operating procedure (SOP).
Last Thursday, Jais seized 321 Bibles in Malay and Iban from the BSM office in a raid conducted under the Enactment.
Under Section 11 of the Enactment, all offences and cases shall be deemed to be seizable offences and seizable cases for the purpose of the Criminal Procedure Code.
However, Bon said even if the offence was seizable, the power to search and seize was with the police under Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
He said the police must also get a search warrant from a Magistrate under Section 56 of the Code before conducting any raids.
Criminal lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said the Criminal Procedure Code should be adhered to if there were no provisions in the Enactment that spells out Jais’ authority in searching premises.
“Under the Code, a warrant is needed to search premises. The Code provides for exceptions where searches can be held without warrants but they are limited and usually for drastic measures,” he said.
Lawyer MK Thas said Jais’ SOP could be reviewed with the consensus from all parties involved including religious groups and the state government.