Govt’s bid to dismiss automatic citizenship case denied

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has fixed June 30 to hear a lawsuit filed by an NGO and six Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses who are seeking for their children, born abroad, to be given automatic citizenship.

This follows a decision by High Court judge Justice Akhtar Tahir, who dismissed an application by the government to strike out the suit on grounds that the lawsuit was not frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process.

In his decision, Justice Akhtar said there was apparent and unjustified discrimination against the parents of a child born out of the federation.

“The non-justification becomes even more clear, even more glaring, if you were to look at the other provisions in the same article of citizenship (in the Federal Constitution).

“This is an issue that cannot be said to be frivolous. This is an important issue. The justification for such a discrimination must be informed to the parties, including the first plaintiff and the other plaintiffs.

“I am disallowing the defendant’s application to strike out (the lawsuit), ” the judge said here yesterday.

The court also said the onus to show justification lies on the defendant (the government).

The court set June 30 for hearing of oral submissions by both sides.

There was no order as to costs.

Lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, who represented the plaintiffs, told reporters that the court also allow them to add two more defendants to the lawsuit; the Home Minister and National Registration Department’s director-general.

“This is because we want them (the two new defendants) to be directly accountable for any decision that might be made.

“The important thing is that the court has directed the government to provide the justification by way of affidavit.

“We will have our chance to reply, ” Dr Gurdial said.

The lawsuit initially named the government of Malaysia as the sole defendant.

It was filed by the Association of Family Support and Welfare Selangor and Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) president Suriani Kempe and the six Malaysian women on Dec 18 last year.

They are seeking six specific court orders, including a declaration that Sections 1(b) and 1(c) be read harmoniously with Article 8(2), to include Malaysian mothers as a condition for children born abroad to be given automatic Malaysian citizenship.

The group is also seeking, among others, a court order for all relevant government agencies, including the National Registration Department, the Immigration Department and Malaysian embassies, to issue citizenship documents (including passports and identity cards) to children born abroad to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses.

Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayob appeared for the defendant during the proceeding.

When met after the proceedings, Suriani,

who is the first plaintiff in her capacity as the president and office bearer of Family Frontiers, said the society was pleased with the court’s decision.

“We look forward to letting the court hear the merits of this case, ” she added.

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