A Hindu man seeking to remove the Muslim status in his identification card has lost his legal battle to remove the word "Islam" from his id card and has been told to first get a court declaration that he is a non-Muslim.
The Federal Court has unanimously decided to refuse Hindu-born Mohd Sharif Abdullah's leave for appeal in his bid to compel the National Registration Department (NRD) to change his religious status in the national registry.
The Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tun Arifin Zakaria noted that the NRD was relying on the declaration by Mohd Sharif's mother in his identification card application that he was a Muslim. He said, "They go by records and records speak for it. So what you want to do is go to court and apply for a declaration that you are not Muslim. So we have to dismiss your application, take the right step," reports the Malay Mail Online.
But he did not mention whether the declaration should be from the civil or Shariah courts.
Senior federal counsel, Suzana Atan in her submission earlier had accepted that the NRD had issued the contentious IC when Mohd Sharif was 12 based only on his mother's application.
The government lawyer said that the issue at stake was for the court to decide if the NRD was reasonable to ask Mohd Sharif in order to get an order from the Shariah Court to renounce Islam. But the court interjected.
Arifin said, "What is there to renounce if he is not Muslim? The (IC) application does not make him a Muslim." He also added that the Shariah court only has jurisdiction over Muslims while there was no certificate to proof that Mohd Sharif had converted to Islam. Only the registration as Muslim does not make him a Muslim.
Mohd Sharif's lawyer, Robin Lim Fang Say had argued today saying that the NRD was not justified in registering his client as a Muslim. It was not right to treat his case as a matter of renouncing Islam. "So in other words, what we are saying is there was administrative error in entry. Because there was no conclusive evidence that he ever converted to Islam," he said.
Lim has informed the reporters later that the next step for his client is to make an application in the civil courts for a declaration that he is not a Muslim, before going to the NRD in order to seek the amendment of his IC details.
On the other hand, Nithiyawati Subramaniam, another lawyer who is representing Mohd Shariff, told Malay Mail Online that her client's stepfather was the one who had filled up the IC application form although the illiterate mother's name was listed as the applicant.
However, the High Court and the Court of Appeal had earlier dismissed Mohd Sharif's application to be officially recognised as a non-Muslim through the removal of "Islam" from his IC and the restoration of his name at birth, Mahendran Ghanasan.