PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court re-established the bar against non-Muslims from practising as Syarie lawyers in the Federal Territories Syariah Courts.
In a split 3-2 ruling today, the majority verdict delivered by Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that a non-Muslim can practise as a Syarie lawyer in the Syariah Courts throughout the Federal Territories.
On June 21, 2013, the Court of Appeal had allowed an appeal by lawyer Victoria Jayaseele Martin against the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAWIP) refusal to process her application to become a Syarie legal practitioner.
After proceedings today, Victoria's counsel Ranjit Singh said his client, who was not present, would be very disappointed with the apex court decision.
"She is very passionate about Syariah law. But that passion is not enough to allow her to practise (as Syarie lawyer)," said Ranjit.
On whether Victoria would seek a review of the Federal Court judgment, he expressed doubt on that as the matter "is over in this respect".
MAWIP's appeal centred on Section 59 (1) of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993, which stated that "any person", with sufficient knowledge in Islamic law may be appointed a syariah law practitioner.
Section 59 (2) gives the power to the council to make rules with regard to qualification of syariah law practitioners.
Lawyer Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah acted for MAWIP while senior federal counsel Mazlifah Ayob and Shamsul Bolhassan appeared for the Attorney-General, who is co-appelant in today's appeal.
In 2010, Victoria filed a judicial review application and sought a certiorari order to compel the council to allow her to practise as a syariah lawyer in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.
She also wanted the court declaration that Order 10 of the Syariah Lawyers Regulations 1993, which only allows Muslims to be accepted as syariah lawyers, to be against the Federal Constitution.
The High Court dismissed her application in 2011.