19November2017

Federal Court grants stay on ‘bin Abdullah’ ruling

The Federal Court today stayed a lower court’s ruling that allowed a Muslim child conceived outside marriage to take his father’s name instead of a ‘bin Abdullah’ patronym, pending the Johor religious authority’s bid to intervene in the case.

Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, who chaired a three-judge panel, set September 8 for hearing of the Johor Islamic Religious Council’s application for leave to intervene, but struck out an intervener application by the Kuala Lumpur Islamic Religious Council.

“This is a judicial review. If I allow for KL (Islamic Council) to intervene, other councils will want to intervene as well,” he said.

MAIJ’s application was allowed after its lawyer, Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah, convinced the apex court that the case was first filed in Johor and thus the state and its laws were related, reported the Malay Mail Online.

On May 25, the Court of Appeal delivered a judgment in favour of a Johor-born child and his two Muslim parents, pointing out that the child will have to bear lifelong shame and suffer grief if his name was associated with ‘bin Abdullah’ instead of his father’s name.

The Court of Appeal had also noted that his parents were legally married before his birth.

The child, who was born less than six months from the date of his parents’ marriage, had failed at the High Court in August 2016 to take on his father’s name.

Among other things, the Appellate Court ruled that the law does not empower the National Registration Department (NRD) director-general to either override the Muslim father’s wish to have his name used as his child’s patronym, or to decide on his own that the child’s patronym should be ‘Abdullah’, stressing that a ‘fatwa’ (religious edict) is “not law and has no force of law and cannot form the legal basis” for the decision on an illegitimate child’s patronym.

The NRD had cited the National Fatwa Committee’s 2003 fatwa that an illegitimate child, defined as one conceived out of wedlock or born fewer than six months from the date of the parents’ marriage, could not carry the father’s name.

The NRD has since filed for leave of appeal at the Federal Court and is seeking to defer the effect of the Court of Appeal’s decision pending the appeal. The NRD had earlier this month failed at the Court of Appeal to stay the decision.

Subsequently, MAIJ and the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council filed intervener lawsuits on the case.

MAIJ argued that the state Islamic body had direct legal interest in this matter and needed to attend the legal proceedings to defend these interests.

Lawyers Nizam Bashir and K. Shanmuga represented the family today.-21/8/2017

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