A Sabah church and a Sarawak Christian may have no further course of action on their constitutional right to use the word Allah, as both have withdrawn their applications to quash the seizure of Christian literature by the Customs Department.
The Court of Appeal said in the case of Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), the application for an order to quash the seizure (certiorari and mandamus) no longer existed after the government had returned educational Christian materials in Bahasa Malaysia, which contained the term Allah.
This decision would also affect Sarawakian Jill Ireland’s lawsuit as the facts are similar.
Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Baker observed that what was left in the SIB case was now an academic application couched as declarations.
He said SIB wanted the court to declare, among others, that it had freedom of religion to use the word Allah in Bahasa Malaysia and the right to import educational materials.
“Declaration, whether in civil or a constitutional matter, is a discretionary relief. The courts generally will not entertain such academic applications,” Hamid said.
The judge made the remark in the 29-page judgment in disallowing the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council’s (MAIWP) application to be made a party to the suit.
Hamid said a breach must take place for the courts to provide the relief.
“In our view, the parties here must strictly look at the application and ventilate before the High Court whether such declaration in the first instance is permissible,” he said.
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur has scheduled to hear SIB’s case on Oct 10.
He said once the application for an order to quash the seizure of educational material is withdrawn, the judicial review application would change character into a public interest litigation.
SIB and its president Rev Jerry Dusing filed the judicial review in 2007, after three boxes of imported Malay-language Christian educational books that contained the word “Allah” were seized at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang in August 2007.
The books were returned to SIB in January 2008.
In Ireland’s case, MAIWP and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) want to intervene in the application lodged by her in the High Court.
But MAIWP and MAIS’ applications to be made parties to the judicial review was pending the decision on SIB’s matter.
This case will be heard in the High Court on Oct 17.
In July last year, a Court of Appeal ordered the Home Ministry to return eight CDs seized from Ireland, which it did two months later.
She took her matter to court in August 2008, after the Customs Department had seized the materials in May that year.