PUTRAJAYA - The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Catholic weekly, The Herald, will not be allowed to use the word "Allah" in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.
A three-member panel, led by Federal court Judge Mohamed Apandi Ali unanimously ruled in favour of the Government's appeal to set aside the 2009 decision of a High Court which had allowed the publication's use of the word.
The Appeal Court found that the Home Minister had not acted in any manner or way that merited judicial interference on his decision and that sufficient material was considered by the minister in discharging his function and statutory power under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
The two other judges in the panel were Justices Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim and Mohd Zawawi Salleh,
The court set aside all orders made by the Kuala Lumpur High Court pursuant to the judicial review in 2009, with no order as to costs, as agreed between parties.
Justice Mohamed Apandi read a brief summary of the penal members' judgments, saying that they were more than 100 pages long in total.
"Our common finding is that the usage of the name 'Allah' is not an integral part of the faith and practise of Christianity. We cannot find why the parties are so adamant to use the name in their weekly publication," he said, adding that such usage of the word would cause confusion within the Islamic community.
Justice Mohamed Apandi said the welfare of an individual or group, must yield to the community and this is how the judges interpreted the element of "in peace and harmony" in Article 3(1) to be read with freedom of religion in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution.
The court also found that the Home Ministry prohibiting the usage of the word in the Herald did not infringe on any constitutional rights.
Senior federal counsel Suzanna Atan represented the Government, while lawyers Porres Royan and Annou Xavier acted as counsel for the Catholic Church.
Groups of people had gathered at the Palace of Justice court complex here as early as 7.30am yesterday to show their support for either side of the appeal.
The case began on Feb 16, 2009 when the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, filed a judicial review in the High Court, on the prohibition of use of the word "Allah" in The Herald, naming the Home Ministry and Government as respondents.
Among other things, the Catholic Church sought a declaration that the Home Ministry's ban on the use of the word "Allah" in the publication was illegal and that the word "Allah" was not exclusive to the religion of Islam.
On Dec 31, 2009, High Court Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan ruled that the Home Minister's decision to forbid The Herald from using the word "Allah" in the publication was illegal, null and void.
On Jan 5, 2010, the Home Ministry and Government appealed against High Court's decision.
On July 9, the Archbishop filed an application to the strike out the Government's appeal but another three-member panel of the Court of Appeal comprising Justices Abu Samah Nordin, Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim and Rohana Yusof rejected it unanimously on Aug 22.