The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and state government have succeeded in their appeals to reinstate a 37-year-old woman's conversion to Islam.
In a 2-1 majority decision, a Court of Appeal bench chaired by justice Yaacob Md Sam today allowed the appeals to set aside the High Court's decision nullifying the woman's conversion.
The ruling, which was delivered online, came from Yaacob and Mohd Nazlan Ghazali who decided in favour of Mais and the Selangor government. Justice P Ravinthran meanwhile dissented.
Nazlan said the Shariah High Court and Shariah Court of Appeal had already decided that the woman was still a Muslim, making it a renunciation case which falls under the shariah courts’ jurisdiction.
He said a judicial determination by the shariah courts that a person is still a Muslim, such as in the woman's case, necessarily means that she is a Muslim and not one that was never a Muslim.
Nazlan also said the civil court had no power of judicial review over the shariah courts, let alone in reversing or departing from any manner, relitigating, unravelling or going behind the shariah courts’ decision as this was tantamount to an infringement of Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution, which states that the civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters that fall under the jurisdiction of shariah courts.
He said the decision of the High Court nullifying the sharuah courts’ decision was erroneous and could not be sustained.
On Dec 12, 2013, the woman filed a summons at the Kuala Lumpur Shariah High Court seeking to renounce Islam. Her application for renunciation, however, was dismissed on Aug 1, 2017.
Ravinthran, in dismissing the appeals of Mais and the Selangor government, said the High Court had been correct to grant the declaration sought by the woman.
In her originating summons, the woman, who was born a Hindu to a Hindu father and a Buddhist mother in 1986, sought a declaration that she was not a person who professed the religion of Islam.
She said her mother converted to Islam in 1991 and unilaterally converted her, at the age of five, at the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) office. She also said that the conversion took place while her parents were in the midst of a divorce, which was finalised in 1992.
In 1993, her mother married a Muslim man while her father died in an accident three years later, she said.
The woman claimed that despite her conversion to Islam, her mother and stepfather allowed her to continue practising the Hindu faith, and that she had never professed the religion of Islam.
The woman then filed a suit in the Shah Alam High Court and succeeded in getting a declaration that she is not a Muslim on April 4 last year.
Lawyers Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla and Majdah Muda represented Mais while Selangor state legal adviser Salim Soib@Hamid represented the Selangor government.
The woman’s lawyer, A Surendra Ananth, told reporters that he had received instructions from his client to file for leave to appeal in the Federal Court.