Apex court grants appeal

PUTRAJAYA: A 39-year-old woman who was born to a Muslim father and Buddhist mother won her six-year legal battle to be declared a non-Muslim after the Federal Court here allowed her appeal.

A nine-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (pic) ruled that Rosliza Ibrahim was never a Muslim.

Rosliza succeeded in making her claims on a balance of probabilities that she was never a Muslim since birth, she said.

The court found that based on evidence, Rosliza was an illegitimate child and her mother was never a Muslim, therefore her father’s religion could not be ascribed to her.This was corroborated by the Religious Authorities’ Letters which stated that they were unable to locate any record of a marriage between the plaintiff’s parents.

“The concurrent categorisation by the courts below (the High Court and the Court of Appeal) of the plaintiff’s case as a renunciation case is not correct in fact and in law.

“This is an ab initio case, ” Tengku Maimun said yesterday.

She said Rosliza’s appeal was allowed and the orders of the lower courts were set aside.

“An order is granted in terms of the originating summons. There shall be no order as to costs, ” she said.

Tengku Maimun added that six other judges on the bench – Court of Appeal president Justice Tan Sri Rohana Yusuf and Federal Court judges Justices Datuk P. Nallini, Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang – agreed with the judgment.

“However, Chief Judge of Malaya Justice (Tan Sri) Azahar Mohamed and Federal Court judge Justice Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohamed Hashim agreed with the answers on the leave questions sought by Rosliza but departed on the orders and relief to be granted to the appellant, ” Tengku Maimun added.

Justices Azahar and Hasnah departed from the majority on the second and third orders sought by Rosliza including whether the Islamic religious law could be enforced on her.

They were of the view that the Fatwa Committee should be consulted first in understanding the Islamic law on this matter.

Rosliza was represented by Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, Aston Paiva, Yasmeen Soh, Karluis Quek, Quratulain Atiqah and Michael Cheah Ern Tien.

Selangor state legal adviser Datuk Salim Soib appeared for the state government while Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) was represented by lawyers Abdul Rahim Sinwan, Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar and Azman Marsaleh.

Senior Federal Counsels Suzana Atan, Shamsul Bolhassan and K. Kogilambigai appeared for the government.

Paiva said his client was raised a Buddhist by her mother and continued to profess Buddhism to this day.

“She wants to continue living her life peacefully as a Buddhist in Malaysia, ” he said in a statement.

Lawyer Philip TN Koh, who held a watching brief for the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism & Taoism said the council welcomed the decision.

“The journey of this Buddhist lady and her late mother in establishing her true identity as a Chinese Buddhist has found a just resolution today in our apex court, ” he said.

Rosliza filed the originating summons in 2015 for a declaration that she was born out of wedlock to a Muslim father and her late Buddhist mother.

She named the Selangor government and Mais as the first and second respondents respectively.

She claimed that she was raised as a Buddhist, therefore the syariah courts had no jurisdiction over her.

On June 22,2017, then Shah Alam High Court dismissed Rosliza’s suit on the grounds that the evidence produced by Rosliza only showed that no marriage registration was made, adding that failure to register a marriage was not proof that there was no such marriage.

The court said the evidence produced by Rosliza failed to prove on a balance of probabilities that she was not a Muslim at birth and it was of the view that she was born a Muslim.The court ruled that her case was under the syariah court’s jurisdiction and not the civil High Court.

Rosliza’s appeal to the High Court’s decision was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on April 25,2018.On Jan 20, the Federal Court granted her leave to appeal against the High Court and the Court of Appeal’s dismissals of her suit.

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