Soon Li Tsin
May 25, 07 6:02pm
Ten months after the final arguments were submitted in the Federal Court, the much-anticipated decision on the Lina Joy case will be revealed on May 30.
Contacted by malaysiakini today, Joy’s solicitor Benjamin Dawson confirmed next Wednesday as the date for the judgment which has deep impact relating to religious freedom in Malaysia. The time is set for 9.30am.
Joy, 43, whose Muslim name was Azlina Jailani, converted to Christianity in 1998 and is married to a Christian.
She had successfully applied in 1998 to change her name but the National Registration Department granted a card with her new name a year later but refused to remove her religion, stated as Islam, saying it needed permission from a syariah court.
Her attempt to quash and overturn this administrative decision at the High Court failed when the court on April 18, 2001 ruled that she could not renounce Islam and the issue should be decided by the Syariah Court.
She then took the matter to the Court of Appeal which upheld the lower court’s decision in a majority 2-1 decision.
Three key issues
The case then went to the Federal Court where justices Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim - who is also chief justice - Alauddin Sheriff and Richard Malanjum ruled that the case would be decided on three main issues.
The issues are:
* If the NRD is legally entitled to impose as a requirement a certificate or a declaration or an order from the Syariah Court before deleting the entry of ‘Islam’ from the applicant's (Joy’s) identity card;
* If the NRD has correctly construed its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 to impose the above requirement when it is not expressly provided for in the regulations and;
* Whether the landmark case, Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah - which declared that the civil courts will retain their jurisdiction unless an expressed jurisdiction is conferred to Syariah Court - was rightly decided.
Arguments raised by both parties in the Federal Court covered Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, procedural matters, universal rights, women’s rights and Islamic law.
The landmark judgment is going to set precedent which would affect cases such as S Shamala and R Subashini which are both still undergoing trial.
Both cases concern the issue of jurisdiction - whether civil or syariah courts is more authoritative when one spouse converts to Islam - to be addressed.
After eight long years, Joy will know whether she has the right to remove 'Islam' from her identity card.