KUCHING: The High Court here yesterday allowed leave of application for judicial review (JR) of a case involving apostasy in the state.
Said to be a landmark case for Sarawak, the issue of the case is whether the Syariah Court or the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear the matter involving apostasy.
High Court Judge Datuk Yew Jen Kie fixed Inter Partes Hearing at 9am on Jan 15 next year.
According to a brief summary of the case, the JR applicant Azmi Mohamad Azam @ Roneey Rebit, a Bidayuh, was born in 1975 and had been given the name ‘Roneey Anak Rebit’.
Both of his parents are also Bidayuh and were Christians by religion. His father was a soldier and both of his parents were attracted to Islam when his father was on duty in Kuala Lumpur.
The applicant’s parents converted into the religion of Islam in Sarawak. At that time, the applicant was only eight years old, hence he had no choice but to follow his parents.
Since then, the applicant was given the name ‘Azmi B Mohamad Azam @ Roneey’.
The applicant filed an application for judicial review and sought these reliefs: that the applicant is a Christian; an Order of Mandamus to compel the first and/or second respondents to issue the Letter of Release from the religion of Islam (Surat Murtad) to the applicant effecting the applicant’s intention to be released from the religion of Islam; an Order of Mandamus to compel the third respondent to change the applicant’s name from Azmi B Mohamad Azam Shah @ Roneey to Roneey Anak Rebit; and an Order of Mandamus to compel the third respondent to drop the applicant’s religion of Islam in his identity card and/or the records and/or particulars of the applicant’s religion held at the National Registry to that of Christianity.
The first and second respondents Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and Sarawak Islamic Council had no objection to issue ‘Letter of No Objection To Come Out From Islam’ to the applicant.
Only the third respondent, National Registration Department, insisted that the applicant should get an order from the Syariah Court instead of filing through the Civil Court.
The leave application for judicial review by the applicant was granted on the following grounds:
The applicant converted when he was a minor and following his parents when he was just eight years old and he had no choice but to follow his parents; the said conversion is not his volition and hence, applicant cannot be considered as a person professing the religion of Islam; because applicant cannot be considered as a person professing the religion of Islam, the applicant is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court and is not bound by the Federal Court’s decision of ‘Lina Joy’ as submitted by third respondent.
In addition, the Civil Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter; and there are merits in Roneey’s application and his application is not frivolous based on the legal principles in leave application as it involves personal rights of a person for freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.
Azmi @ Roneey was represented by Counsel Chua Kuan Ching.