Why last-minute withdrawal?

PARLIAMENT passed into law the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Act 2017 early Thursday at 12.50am without the crucial Section 88A(1).

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said was reported saying earlier in the week: "It is also in line with the principle of stare decisis (Latin for "to stand by things decided") doctrine where there are binding court decisions on the interpretation of Clause (4) Article 12 (of the Federal Constitution)."

Stare decisis is only applicable to the courts, namely lower courts are bound by the decisions of higher courts.

A court decision does not and cannot prevent Parliament from enacting into law provisions it deems fit. The courts can only interpret laws. The doctrine of stare decisis does not bind Parliament.

The Federal Court might subsequently hold Section 88A(1) to be in conflict with Article 12(4) of the Constitution. However it is not uncommon for the Federal Court to review its earlier decisions or vary earlier interpretations by using different modes of interpretation, especially on a contentious interpretation. Why must Parliament hide behind the decision of courts when it is there to pass laws and make amendments?

Unilateral conversion of a minor is an important issue that needs to be addressed. It should be about correcting an apparent injustice and be beyond toeing party lines.

A cabinet minister was reported saying the bill was a way forward in resolving issues pertaining to marriages and divorce when one partner converts to Islam.

He was further reported saying that Section 88A did not obtain the agreement of the attorney-general as it is in conflict with the Federal Constitution, and might not get an approval even if it were passed.

Isn't the Attorney-General's Chambers responsible for drafting bills for the government in the first place? Didn't the AG warn of this "conflict" when the cabinet first announced Section 88A?

Why the last-minute withdrawal and this justification for it?

Murugesan Sinnandavar
Klang