PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court will be hearing additional argument on whether it is against the Federal Constitution to only allow Muslims to practise as Syarie lawyers.
Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria, who chaired a five-man panel, allowed this additional question of law for deliberation by the apex court by consent of the parties yesterday.
The additional question is whether Rule 10 of the Rules for Syariah Lawyers 1993 mandating only Muslims to be admitted as Syarie lawyers contravenes Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Constitution – which govern equality, liberty and right to form association – are therefore void.
“The parties are to file in written submissions for the hearing,” Justice Arifin said yesterday.
The top judge said this in the appeal of Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and Attorney-General’s Chambers against the landmark decision by the Court of Appeal to allow non-Muslim lawyers to practice Syariah law.
Lawyer Victoria Jayaseele Martin, 52, who has a Masters degree in Comparative Law from the International Islamic University (IIU) is seeking to be admitted as a Syariah lawyer at the Federal Territories (FT). She is represented by lawyer Ranjit Singh.
With Justice Arifin in the panel are Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, Federal Court judges Justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Azahar Mohamed and Court of Appeal judge Justice Zaharah Ibrahim.
The apex court had on Jan 28 last year allowed a question of law to be heard and decided later – whether Rule 10, mandating that only Muslims can be admitted as Syariah lawyers, was beyond the power of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.
Yesterday, MAIWP’s lead counsel Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah argued that the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act was made for the purposes of Muslims and to set up Syariah courts and regulate proceedings at the Syariah courts.
“The Act is for the benefit of Muslims and to look after the interest of Muslims and it shall have jurisdiction for Muslims.
“It not only refers to Syariah lawyer’s conduct inside the Syariah court but also outside the court. It would be possible and legal for any women to wear tudung at all times whether inside or outside court. It will be argued (later) that it is against their constitutional rights (to impose such directives) on non-Muslim lawyers,” he argued.
Deputy registrar Khainur Aleeza Ismail then fixed May 14 for the continuation of the hearing, after meeting the parties for a case management.
On March 17, 2011, Martin lost her bid at the High Court to challenge the requirement that a Syarie lawyer in Kuala Lumpur must be a Muslim.
On June 21, 2013, the Court of Appeal judge Justice Abu Samah Nordin, who led a three-member Bench, reversed the ruling saying the law governing the appointment of Syarie lawyers does not specify that applicants must be Muslim.
Martin had on Aug 24, 2009 applied to practise as a Syariah lawyer in the FT but was rejected on Sept 9, 2009, on the grounds that she was not a person who professed the religion of Islam as required by Rule 10.
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