KUALA LUMPUR: The Government is taking a detailed look at proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (also known as RUU355) and other relevant laws before deciding if these should be amended.
"The Government is currently looking at RUU355 and other relevant laws in detail and in a holistic manner before amending or improving them to ensure that the move to empower the Syariah Court can be achieved in line with other important aspects," said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Rawa Yusof.
Mujahid was responding in a written reply to a question from Ahmad Fadhli Shaari (PAS-Pasir Mas).
Ahmad Fadhli had asked about the Government's efforts to improve the powers of the Syariah Court for it to impose heavier penalties for various offences, including qazaf (false accusation) nationwide.
Last October, PAS had urged the Pakatan Harapan-led government to debate the RUU355 amendment bill.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had previously tabled a Private Member's Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, but it was shelved during the 13th Parliament session under the Barisan Nasional administration.
RUU355 was then left in limbo when it was deferred by former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to the next Parliamentary meeting.
Mujahid said that the Government intends to make changes to RUU355 to ensure that punishments meted out are proportionate with the offences committed.
"However, it cannot be implemented separately as the empowerment of the Syariah Court should not be focused solely on its jurisdiction or punishments; it should also cover other important aspects, including improving the competency of judges, prosecutors, enforcement officers and improvements in management and the infrastructure of those involved," he said.
"All these aspects are equally important in strengthening the powers of the Syariah Court, " he stressed.
Mujahid said the government was aware that the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court was limited under the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 and the punishment meted out under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 sometimes were not proportionate with some of the offences.
"For the qazaf offence, it is currently only limited to those who commit zina (extramarital sex) without having to provide four witnesses or the pledge of the accused.
"Therefore, the Government is in the process of synchronising syariah laws across the country to ensure the current law remains relevant with the current time without infringing Islamic (syarak) laws and the principle of justice.
"Among the amendments currently being considered include offences of false accusation involving offences like sodomy, sex outside of marriage, and sexual relations between women (musyahaqah)," he said.