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Apex court allows NRD bid to stay ruling in ‘bin Abdullah’ case

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 21: The Federal Court today allowed an application brought by the National Registration Department (NRD) and two others for a stay of the appellate court ruling allowing a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock to have the father’s surname instead of ‘Abdullah’.

Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, leading a three-man panel, granted the application by Senior Federal Counsel Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh to stay the decision pending the disposal of the case at the Federal Court, reported Bernama.

In civil cases, a party has to obtain leave from the Federal Court before it can proceed with an appeal. The NRD and two other applicants had filed leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling and the apex court had set Sept 8 to hear the matter.

“We allow the stay application effective today and no order as to costs,” said Justice Md Raus.

Ahmad Terrirudin, who represented the NRD, its director-general and the Government of Malaysia, had applied to the court for a stay of the appellate court’s decision delivered on May 25 this year.

Justice Md Raus, who sat with Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Federal Court Judge Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin, also granted an application by the Johor Islamic Religious Council to intervene in the leave application by the three applicants.

However, the panel struck out a similar application by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council. Both the religious councils were represented by Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah.

Justice Md Raus earlier advised Sulaiman to be the ‘amicus curiae’ (literally, friend of the court, an impartial adviser) in the case because the case was a judicial review application and not a suit.

“I want this case to be settled quickly and we do not want multiple parties to intervene and argue the same points,” said Justice Md Raus.

Lawyer K. Shanmuga, who represented a couple and their son, had objected to the application but agreed that the lawyer for both the religious councils be made amicus curiae.

On May 25, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal brought by the couple and their son who filed a judicial review to compel the NRD director-general to replace the child’s surname ‘Abdullah’ with the name of the child’s father in the birth certificate.

The Court of Appeal, in a written judgment released on July 25 this year, said the NRD director-general was not bound by the ‘fatwa’ or religious edict issued by the National Fatwa Committee to decide the surname of a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock.

In the judgment, the court said the director-general’s jurisdiction was a civil one and was confined to determining whether the child’s parents had fulfilled the requirements under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 (BDRA), which covers all illegitimate children, Muslim and non-Muslim.

The court had held that a fatwa had no force of law and could not form the legal basis for the NRD director-general to decide on the surname of an illegitimate child under section 13A (2) of the BDRA.

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