Chief Justice lays down the law

PUTRAJAYA: Lawyers involved in a constitutional challenge to a Kelantan syariah criminal enactment have been reminded by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat not to comment on the case publicly.

According to Tengku Maimun, it is inappropriate for lawyers to speak about ongoing cases because they are bound by existing practices and etiquette rules.

“This issue is not about undermining the position of Islam and syariah.

“It is simply the competency of the Kelantan state legislature to legislate on the impugned provisions,” she said yesterday.

Tengku Maimun also responded to a statement by lawyer Mohd Yusfarizal Yussoff, representing the Terengganu Islamic Religion and Malay Customs Council, who said it is crucial to understand the challenge of the powers of the Syariah Court before it becomes “buried like a ‘batu nisan’ (tombstone)”.

Tengku Maimun said Mohd Yusfarizal’s remarks, quoted by PAS mouthpiece Harakahdaily on Sept 16, that “Mahkamah syariah akan berkubur di Malaysia” (The Syariah Court will be buried in Malaysia), are untrue.

“Everyone in this courtroom is reminded to uphold the rule of law and not to incite the sentiment of the public.

“We call on lawyers to argue the case based on the issues before us,” she added.

Earlier, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, representing Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid and her daughter Tengku Yasmin Nastasha Tengku Abdul Rahman in the case, said Yusfarizal had allegedly commented publicly on the issue on Sept 16.

Tengku Maimun, who was presiding over the case, asked Yusfarizal to confirm whether or not he had made the statement, as alleged by Nik Elin in her affidavit.

In response, Yusfarizal said he would reply to Nik Elin’s affidavit after checking the recording and transcript in which he allegedly made the remark.

Tengku Maimun then said the case does not undermine the Syariah Court or the Islamic faith.

“Much of what is said about this petition is a distorted version,” she added.

Tengku Maimun led a nine-member bench in the proceedings yesterday, which heard submissions from parties including the Malaysian Bar, Sisters in Islam, and the Perak and Terengganu state Islamic councils.

She said the court has decided to reserve its judgment and will set a date to deliver its verdict.

The other members of the bench comprised Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Amar Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, Court of Appeal judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, Federal Court judges Tan Sri Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan, Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.

Nik Elin and Tengku Yasmin filed their challenge on May 25 last year at the Federal Court via Article 4 (4) of the Federal Constitution, naming the Kelantan state government as the respondent.

Both of them had filed a constitutional challenge against 18 provisions under Kelantan’s syariah criminal enactment.

They argued that these provisions, which include punishments for incest, gambling, necrophilia, sodomy, sexual harassment, and others, were invalid as they were already covered by federal law.

The two also argued that the power to legislate criminal matters belongs to Parliament, as state assemblies only have the right to enact laws concerning Islamic faith.

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