Court to make decision on non-Muslim Syariah lawyers later

Court to make decision on non-Muslim Syariah lawyers later
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

PUTRAJAYA - The law governing on the appointment of Syarie lawyers does not specify that only Muslims are allowed to be Syariah lawyers, a Federal Court heard.

However, the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) contended that only Muslims can practise Syariah law as Syariah courts have no jurisdiction on non-Muslims if they misbehaved during the proceedings.

A five-man panel, led by Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, reserved judgment Thursday after hearing lengthy submissions by the parties.

The decision will be given on a date to be fixed later.

Lawyer Victoria Jayaseele Martin, 52, is seeking to be admitted as a Syarie lawyer in the Federal Territory.

Two questions of law have been put forward in an appeal by the MAIWP and the AGC against the landmark decision by the Court of Appeal to allow non-Muslim lawyers to practise Syariah law.

The apex court will now decide on whether Rule 10 of the Rules for Syariah Lawyers mandating that only Muslims can be admitted as Syarie lawyers contravenes Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution governing equality, liberty and the right to form associations, and is therefore void.

It will decide whether Rule 10 goes beyond the ambit of powers granted by the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.

On Thursday, Martin's lead counsel Datuk Dr Cyrus Das argued that Section 59(1) of the Administrative of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act clearly stated that the council may admit any person having sufficient knowledge of Islamic law to become a Syarie lawyer.

On March 17, 2011, Martin, who has a Masters degree in Comparative Law from the International Islamic University (IIU), lost her bid at the High Court to challenge the requirement that a Syarie lawyer in Kuala Lumpur must be a Muslim.

On June 21, 2013, then Court of Appeal judge Justice Abu Samah Nordin, leading a three-member bench, reversed the ruling, saying the law governing the appointment of Syarie lawyers does not specify that applicants must be Muslim.

Martin had on Aug 24, 2009 applied to practise as a Syarie lawyer in the Federal Territory but was rejected on Sept 9, 2009, on the grounds that she was not a person who professed the religion of Islam as required by Rule 10.

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