The Attorney-General is the right person to be made party in the proceeding of a church group seeking the right to use the word “Allah”, the Court of Appeal said.
“In this matter, the AG is duly represented and vigilant, sufficient in our view to protect the public right within the watchful eyes of the courts with judges who have taken a constitutional oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer said.
However, he said Sidang Injil Borneo’s (SIB) application to ask for declarations was now in doubt as the government had returned religious materials seized.
“Whether public interest litigation is permissible under judicial review (Order 53) or should proceed by way of writ or originating summons is another matter which the AG’s Office ought to ventilate before the High Court,” he said.
SIB’s case will be heard in the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Oct 10.
Hamid said this in his judgment that allowed SIB’s appeal to stop the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council from becoming intervener in the church’s lawsuit as it had no rights over non-Muslims.
Instead, the bench only gave the council the option to appear as “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) if it wished to participate in the High Court proceeding.
He said the council had no direct interest to intervene with the exception of the AG.
“In Malaysia, as well as many jurisdictions in the commonwealth, the AG is also the guardian of the public right/interest in accordance with the rights of the AG under English common law,” Hamid said.
He said the AG, through the appearance of the Senior Federal Counsel, indirectly participated in the proceeding as he represented the Home Minister and Putrajaya.
Hamid said the Federal Court had ruled in 2009 that the phrase “proper person” for judicial review under the High Court rules must be read as referring to “persons with direct interest” and as such the council could not be joined as a party.
“MAIWP (the council) has no rights over and owes no liabilities to the appellant or non-Muslims,” Hamid said.
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.
SIB had applied for a declaration that it has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in religious publications for propagation among Christians, but Hamid said it had become an academic exercise since the education materials were returned.