PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Lumpur High Court's dismissal of Sisters in Islam's (SIS) judicial review application will empower religious authorities to outlaw any individual or group they find deviant without any form of check and balance, says Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).
The human rights organisation said the High Court's decision to push the matter back to the Syariah Court suggested that religious policies were placed higher than the Federal Constitution.
"The judiciary must come to its senses on the subject matter so as to defer the matter to the Syariah Court and religious authorities would only set an example to all secular institutions within the government that religious policies reign supreme over our constitution," said Suaram's executive director, Sevan Doraisamy.
He said Suaram was gravely concerned over the High Court's decision on Tuesday (Aug 27), saying that by doing so, the High Court waived its duty as a protector of the Constitution and granted religious authorities broad and arbitrary power over the fundamental rights of all Malaysians.
"The Federal Constitution is abundantly clear on the rights conferred to all Malaysians, and when these rights could be restricted.
"The judiciary stands as a guardian of these fundamental rights as it is the first and final place where a person can challenge a violation of their rights," he said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed SIS’ application challenging the Selangor Fatwa Committee’s 2014 fatwa (edict), declaring it a deviant organisation.
The court ruled that a fatwa was the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.
Judge Datuk Nordin Hassan said the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear the application pursuant to Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution, which stipulates that the civil courts do not have jurisdiction within matters pertaining to Islam and such, matters should be referred to the Syariah Court.
The application was brought in by SIS founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
SIS has since said it would continue to battle to quash the fatwa through civil laws, until all avenues are exhausted.