Hornbill Unleashed

February 1, 2018

Indira Gandhi ruling repairs justice systems, say former civil servants

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

The Federal Court on Monday said the civil courts have the exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases such as M. Indira Gandhi’s challenge against the validity of her Muslim convert ex-husband’s unilateral conversion of their three children to Islam in 2009. — Picture by Zuraneeza ZulkifliThe landmark Federal Court decision in M. Indira Gandhi’s case corrects discrepancies with Malaysia’s dual legal systems and will have far-reaching repercussions, said the G25 group of retired senior public officials.

Commending the apex court for its unambiguous wording that removed any doubt about the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and the powers of the superior courts, the group said the outcome of the ruling will touch more than cases of unilateral conversions.

“We are heartened to note that the Federal Court in its judgment has not only accorded justice to Ms Indira Gandhi but has also reaffirmed constitutional law principles of great importance,” the group said in a statement.

These included the court’s finding that powers vested in the superior courts may not be usurped by legal or even constitutional changes, that judicial review is a fundamental feature that cannot be subverted, and that the Federal Constitution’s basic structure is immutable.

The group also individually praised the judges who presided over the decision for delivering a judgment that finally brought clarity to the long-standing problem.

In a landmark ruling on Monday, the Federal Court said the civil courts have the exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases such as the Hindu mother’s challenge against the validity of her Muslim convert ex-husband’s unilateral conversion of their three children to Islam in 2009.

The emphatic wording was a clear departure from previous superior court decisions in which judges deferred to their Shariah counterparts in such matters, reinforcing the view that Islamic matters could only be resolved within the latter.

Justice Tan Sri Zainun Ali who authored the judgment said Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution did not usurp the superior courts’ powers to review matters related to Islamic law, despite the language used.

The Article states that the civil courts shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts.

She said “that before a civil court declines jurisdiction premised on the strength of Article 121 (1A), it should first examine or scrutinise the nature of the matter before it. If it involves constitutional issues, it should not decline to hear merely on the basis of no jurisdiction,”

Zainun’s judgment was unanimously backed by the other judges on the Federal Court’s five-man panel that included Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin and Tan Sri Ramly Ali.


Source : The Malay Mail Online


 

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