Petaling Jaya: The proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, or Act 355, is in line with the Constitutional framework. The Act provides only for the limits to the jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts, without specifically identifying offences, lawyer Aidil Khalid said.
He said this in a reply to the issue raised by lawyer Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan. Ambiga stressed her views during a debate held on 17th March 2017 titled, “RUU 355 Should be Made into Law” that Act 355 focuses only on increasing the sentences without specifying the offences for those increased punishments.
“Parliament has no business or power to specify offences against the precepts of Islam. These powers fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the States. The Parliament has the power to attribute jurisdiction to the States. That is the language used by Article 74, read together with the Ninth Schedule, of the Federal Constitution.”
“In 1988, a court case of Mamat bin Daud v Government of Malaysia, the Federal Court declared section 298A of the Penal Code passed by the Parliament as unconstitutional. This was because the Court held that in pith and substance, the said provision concerned was concerned with the religion of Islam. This in return is within the exclusive purview of the State powers, and not the Parliament,” Aidil added.
“What Ambiga proposed is unconstitutional, and offends the division of powers between the State and the Federal Government. The parliament cannot specify the offences. If amendment to Act 355 is passed, it will be constitutional without naming the specific offences. And then, it is up to the States to take it up from there, to specify the offences, and the specific punishments. Not the other way around.”