Kedah state assembly passes amendment to free Islamic Religious Council from 'obligatory' approval of Sharia lawyers

ALOR STAR: The Kedah State Assembly has passed an amendment to the state Islamic Law Administration Enactment 2008 to free the state Islamic Religious Council from obligatory approval of applications by Sharia lawyers from other states to practise in Kedah.

The bill, tabled by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor (Perikatan Nasional-Jeneri) was meant to streamline the enactment with the Sharia Lawyer Regulations (Kedah Darul Aman) 2016, which was drafted to set the procedure and qualification of Sharia lawyers, in ensuring the competency and quality of Sharia lawyers approved to practise in Kedah.

"The state Islamic Law Administration Enactment 2008 is an enactment which covers the Islamic religious administration, the establishment and the functions of Kedah Darul Aman Islamic Religious Council and other related matters.

"The Enactment was drafted and enforced in 2008 but after a review it was concluded that there is a provision that required an amendment," Sanusi told the House when tabling the bill.

He said the amendment involved the approval for any Sharia lawyer that has been approved to practise in other states in Malaysia, as a Sharia lawyer in Kedah.

Sanusi added that under subsection 46(4) of the enactment, the state Islamic Religious Council is 'obliged' to approve any application from a Sharia lawyer who has been approved to practise in other states, to be accepted to practise in Kedah.

"Therefore, the word 'obliged' in subsection 46(4) of the enactment may deny the power of the Kedah Islamic Religious Council in deciding the procedures in the selection of Sharia lawyers in the state.

"Hence, there is a need to grant the power to the Kedah State Islamic Religious Council to set additional terms to approve the application from a Sharia lawyer who is practising in other states as a Sharia lawyer in Kedah," he said.

Sanusi said with the amendment, the council is granted the authority to reject an application by a Sharia lawyer who fails the screening process which includes a written test and interview in Kedah.

He added that the screening was meant to prevent Sharia lawyers who are not qualified and incompetent from offering Sharia legal services to the people in the state.

Sanusi informed the House that the Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Al-Aminul Karim Sultan Sallehuddin Sultan Badlishah has granted a consent for the bill.

In debating the bill, Mardhiyyah Johari (Perikatan Nasional-Pengkalan Kundor) said Sharia law which is placed under state jurisdiction should be protected and empowered.

She said the amendment to the enactment was the right and reasonable move besides looking into the needs of other amendments to empower and protect Sharia courts.

"As such, under the spirit of empowering Kedah Sharia laws, I support the amendment," she said.

In supporting the bill, State Islamic Religious Committee chairman Mohd Azam Abd Samat (Perikatan Nasional-Sungai Limau) informed the House that the amendment was meant to amend just the word "obliged" to "may".

"Under the current enactment, the word "obliged" bounds the state Islamic Religious Council to approve an application by a Sharia lawyer from other states although the person is found to be incompetent during the screening process.

"This amendment is crucial to produce competent lawyers in handling Sharia court proceedings," he said.

In response to a question from Datuk Dr Mohd Hayati Othman (Perikatan Nasional-Tokai), Azam said the screening committee comprises representatives from the state Mufti Department, the state Sharia Judicial Department and the state Islamic Religious Council.

Speaker Zubir Ahmad subsequently informed the House that the bill was unanimously approved by lawmakers.

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