Mohd Na'im refutes interfaith council's view that Syariah Courts Act amendments are unconstitutional


KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar has refuted the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism's (MCCBCHST) view that amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (also known as RUU 355) are unconstitutional.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) also said that making such "speculative" remarks could create confusion and disharmony within the country.

"All parties are urged not to make any 'speculative' and 'pre-emptive' statements in relation to the proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, which has yet to be tabled in Parliament.

"Once it is tabled, all Members of Parliament will be given sufficient space to debate it," he said in a statement on Saturday (April 6).

Mohd Na'im also said that all parties need to refer to Article 74(2) of the Federal Constitution, which is read together with Item 1 of the State List of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, which in accordance with the said provisions of Syariah Courts, have been established through Acts/Enactments/Ordinances in the states.

He said when dealing with offences under syariah law, the Syariah Court only has jurisdiction over Muslims and only in respect of all matters included in item 1 of the State List of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

Syariah Courts have jurisdiction over offences to the extent provided by federal law as specified in item 1 of the State List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution.

In line with this provision, Mohd Na'im said Parliament had formulated the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 which gave criminal jurisdiction to Syariah Courts.

He said based on item 1 of the State List of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, there are two main points outlined.

Firstly, the power of state legislature to enact laws to establish offences and punishments for offences committed by Muslims against Islamic religious orders, except for matters included in the Federal List.

Secondly, jurisdiction over punishment for offences provided for in state law shall be within the limits provided by federal law.

"This means, the Federal Constitution empowers state legislature to enact laws in their (respective) states to create offences and punishment for offences by Muslims against the Islamic religious order, except for matters included in the Federal list.

"Although syariah criminal offences are enacted by the state legislature, it must be understood that the punishment for offences provided for in state law must be within the limits given by the federal law which is the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965," he said.

He said the proposed amendments under RUU 355 cannot be interpreted as allowing state legislature to create offences and punishments in respect of matters included in the Federal List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution.

He said this is because the state legislature must be subject to the jurisdiction of legislation provided under Clause (2) Article 74 and item 1 of the State List in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

Mohd Na'im said any proposed amendment to the Act would not change legislative powers already allocated by the Federal Constitution to state legislatures.

At the same time, he also confirmed that the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) is committed to strengthening the position of the Syariah Court and Syariah law in this country based on the framework of the Federal Constitution.

Mohd Na'im also advised all parties to uphold the decree of Selangor's Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah on Dec 29 last year that the people, especially those who are not Muslim, respect and not to interfere in matters related to Islamic religious affairs in Malaysia. – Bernama

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