Appeals Court grants Sisters in Islam judicial review

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has allowed Sisters in Islam (SIS) to proceed with a judicial review application against a fatwa that labelled them as deviants in Islam.

The panel led by Judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said that it disagrees with High Court judge Datuk Hanipah Farikullah's decision in upholding the preliminary objection without hearing the merits of the case.

"We allow the appeal to be heard before another judge," she said.

The panel fixed March 9 for mention at the High Court.

The appellant's counsel A Surendra Ananth said the Court of Appeal has agreed with its submissions that the civil courts can decide on this matter.

He said the impact of this decision is that the civil courts has jurisdiction to hear cases on fatwas with regards to constitutionality issues.

"Essentially our main points are firstly that since the jurisdiction issue has already been decided by a High Court judge, it cannot be reopened on the same grounds.

"Secondly this case concerns constitutionality of a fatwa; we are not saying the fatwa is against Islamic principles – that is for the Syariah Courts to decide. 

"We are saying that the fatwa is against the Constitution and the constitutionality of any decision by anybody is for the civil courts to decide," he told reporters after the case. 

It was reported that SIS had on Oct 31, 2014, filed a judicial review on a gazetted fatwa in Selangor that declared the group as "deviants" in Islam.

The fatwa also reportedly deemed any publications with elements of liberalism and religious pluralism as "haram" and that it can be seized by religious authorities.

It also called for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to monitor and block social media websites that carries content deemed to be against Islam.

Thus on Dec 10, 2014, the then High Court judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad had granted leave for the judicial review.

However, on June 24 last year, Hanipah, who took over the case from Judge Datuk Asmabi Mohamad, had ruled that only the Syariah Court has jurisdiction over fatwa matters as it is concerns Islamic issues.

SIS Forum (Malaysia), which manages SIS, its co-founder Zainah Mahfoozah Anwar and lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had named the Selangor Fatwa Committee, Selangor Islamic Religious Council and the state government as respondents in the application.