Allah case decision needs to done stage by stage, says Malaysia's Chief Justice

PUTRAJAYA - The Catholic Church's application to appeal to the Federal Court over the Allah case does not require a full bench, said Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria.

Instead, the top judge said a five-member bench was enough.

"I have gone through the issue and I don't think it warrants a full bench because it is a leave application," he said after a ceremony to launch the Legal Year 2014.

He was responding to calls by veteran lawyer Karpal Singh to allow a full bench of 13 judges to hear the case.

Arifin said it was also premature for him to decide on whether he would allow for a full bench, should leave be granted.

"This is a leave application. We have to go stage by stage."

Last October, the Court of Appeal allowed the Government's appeal to overturn a High Court ruling which allowed the Catholic newspaper The Herald to use "Allah" to refer to God.

It ruled that the Home Minister had acted on national security and public order when it banned the newspaper from using the word.

Karpal had said the case should be given priority and required a full bench due to its significance, adding that it could bring about a finality to the case.

The Federal Court has fixed Feb 24 to hear the leave application.

At the same event, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said no decision had been made on the sedition investigations against Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew.

"I have yet to look through the investigation papers. I just got back from Kota Kinabalu last night," said Gani.