PUTRAJAYA, June 23, 2015:
The Court of Appeal here ordered the Home Ministry to return eight compact discs (CDs) bearing the term “Allah” to a Sarawakian clerk within 30 days from today.
In delivering the unanimous decision, panel judges Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Datuk Seri Zakaria Sam, however, did not make a ruling on Sarawakian Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s cross-appeal declaration application.
The cross-appeal application sought among others, her constitutional right to import the CDs as it was her right to practise her religion and her right to education.
The court has reverted the cross-appeal hearing on Jill’s declaration application to Kuala Lumpur High Court on July 2 before a new judge.
When met outside the court, senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, who represented the Home Ministry and government, said the decision to appeal the verdict lay with the Attorney-General.
Jill, who was not present here today, was represented by Lim Heng Seng and Annou Xavier.
“The Kuala Lumpur High Court will hear parts of Jill’s application, including article 8 and 11 of the Federal Constitution, relating to her equality and freedom of religion,” said Lim.
Meanwhile, president of Borneo Evangelical Church (SIB) Sarawak branch Reverend Dr Justin Wan expressed his relief and privilege to witness the court’s decision today.
Jill is a member of the same church.
On April 23 this year, the Court of Appeal had maintained its judgment on the case after hearing submissions from both parties – Jill and the Home Ministry and government, in their separate appeals against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision.
The plaintiffs appealed to set aside the High Court’s decision which ordered the CDs to be returned to Jill while she cross-appealed after the High Court did not grant her the declaratory reliefs.
The eight CDs bearing titles, among others,Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah, Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah and Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah, were confiscated at the low-cost terminal in Sepang on May 11, 2008.
On Aug 20, 2008, Jill filed a judicial review application as she sought to quash the minister’s decision, seeking the return of the CDs.
Jill’s counsel argued during the appeal proceeding that the Home Ministry’s action to confiscate the CDs was unconstitutional and had therefore, violated her rights to freedom of religion as stated in the Federal Constitution.
In July last year, the High Court ordered the CDs to be returned to Jill.
However, the Home Minister and Government appealed against the court’s ruling.
This is the second case that touches on the use of the word “Allah”.
The first high-profile case began in 2007 when the Home Ministry banned the publication of the word “Allah” in the Catholic Church’s publication Herald in its Bahasa Malaysia section.
After a five-year-long legal dispute, the Federal Court in Malaysia ruled that the Catholic Church had no right to use the word “Allah” (God).