Kuala Lumpur – The Federal Court here has directed counsels in an appeal to submit on a new legal question concerning the constitutionality of a provision in the Rules of the Syariah Lawyers 1993, mandating only Muslims to be admitted as Syariah lawyers.
Chairing a five-member panel, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria on Wednesday gave instructions to include another question of law in the appeal for the Federal Court to deliberate and decide.
Arifin subsequently, adjourned the hearing to another day after counsel Ranjit Singh informed the panel that he did not prepare his submissions on that point.
Ranjit was representing lawyer Victoria Jayaseele Martin, 52, who had filed a judicial review in 2010, seeking a certiorari order to compel the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) to enable her to practise as a syariah lawyer in the Federal Territories.
The matter was sent for case management before Federal Court deputy registrar Khainur Aleeza Ismail who fixed May 14 to resume hearing of the appeal.
The new legal question that was included was whether Rule 10 of the Rules of the Syariah Lawyers mandating that only Muslims can be admitted as Syariah lawyer, contravenes Article 8 (1), Article 8 (2) and Article 5, and Article 10 (1) (c) of the Federal Constitution, and is void.
Earlier, the panel which also comprises Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Federal Court judges Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Datuk Azahar Mohamed and Court of Appeal judge Datuk Zaharah Ibrahim heard submissions from lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah appearing for MAIWP.
He said that MAIWP was empowered under the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993 to make rules relating to the qualifications for admission of persons as Syariah lawyers and also the power to impose condition that the applicant must be a Muslim.
He said it was not unreasonable for MAIWP to impose restrictions for admission as Syariah lawyers to the Syariah courts, which is stated in the Federal Constitution as only having jurisdiction over Muslims.
On Jan 28, last year, the Federal Court granted leave to MAIWP and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to appeal against a Court of Appeal decision, stating that non-Muslim lawyers were eligible to practiSe as Syariah lawyers in the Syariah courts of the Federal Territories.
The court granted leave on one legal question, on whether Rule 10 of the Rules of the Syariah Lawyers mandating that only Muslims can be admitted as Syariah lawyers is ultra vires the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act.
The Court of Appeal, which was led by then-court of appeal judge Datuk Seri Abu Samah Nordin (now Federal Court judge), declared Rule 10 of the Rules of the Syariah Lawyers mandating that only Muslims could be admitted as Syariah lawyers was ultra vires the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act.
Martin, who obtained a Diploma in Syariah Laws and Practice from the International Islamic University, Malaysia (IIUM) in 2004, lost in her judicial review application at the High Court which held that MAIWP had powers under the law to set conditions for admitting Syariah lawyers.
Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for the Attorney-General’s Chambers. – Bernama