THE Government is looking into amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to include community service sentences.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the Government was studying amendments to the Act, also known as Act 355, to widen the criminal jurisdiction of Syariah courts.
“This is because the existing Act has not been amended for long. Should the proposed amendments be passed by Parliament, the Government would like to propose that syariah offenders be given sentences that include community service,” he said in a written reply to Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh).
Kok had asked the Prime Minister to state if the Cabinet had discussed the Private Member’s Bill by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (PAS-Marang).
Kok also asked whether the Government would consider the strong reactions from several Cabinet ministers and sections of the people who opposed amendments to Act 355.
Jamil Khir explained that Act 355 was introduced in 1965 and back then, the maximum prison sentence was not more than six months, fine not exceeding RM1,000, or both.
In 1984, the Act was amended and through that, the sentencing power of the Syariah courts was increased to a RM5,000 fine, six lashes of the rotan and three years’ jail.
“In 1989, it was further expanded to Sabah and Sarawak following the passing of the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment and Extension) Act 1989,” said Jamil Khir.
Hadi’s Bill was slotted as item No 5 in the Order Paper yesterday.
Meanwhile, Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia said the Standing Orders did not give him the power to move a Bill up in the Order Paper, pointing out that Standing Order 15 clearly stated that government matters had to be debated first.
He said Hadi’s Private Member’s Bill was slotted as item No 4 on Monday and many thought that the Bill would be debated that day.
The Bill, however, was never brought up as other government matters took precedence, Pandikar Amin said.
“Other government Bills were brought in because it only needs a 24-hour notice. The government’s matters are always prioritised,” he told a press conference.
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