Consider pursuing religious status case in civil court, court tell family, Mais

30 Oct 2023 05:30pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. – FILE PIX
Image for illustrative purposes only. – FILE PIX

PUTRAJAYA - The Court of Appeal has suggested to a Hindu family and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) to explore the possibility of pursuing the matter of determining the religion of former teacher B. Raguram at the time of his death in the civil courts.

Justice Datuk S.Nantha Balan, who chaired the three-member bench made the proposal during the hearing of an appeal brought by Raguram’s non-Muslim widow and two daughters.

"Isn’t it more suitable the whole thing goes for full trial,” he said, adding that either Mais or the deceased’s family can file the suit and deponents can be cross-examined.

Justice Nantha Balan, who sat with Justices Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali and Datuk Dr Choo Kah Sing, said the court leaves it to the parties how they want to move forward, adding that the matter was a sensitive issue with a lot of implications in a number of areas.

"I think I need to make it very clear in case it’s lingering on anyone’s minds, this panel has not made up its mind on anything. We are just encouraging parties to move forward. So don’t read anything into whatever we said. All options are on the table and we are open to being persuaded whichever way,” Justice Nantha Balan said.

Mais’s lawyer Arham Rahimy Hariri and assistant state legal adviser Khairul Nizam Abu Bakar, acting for the Syariah High Court and the Selangor government, said they will discuss the suggestion with their clients.

Justice Nantha Balan then fixed tomorrow for case management to fixed another date to either continue the hearing of the appeal or to record whichever way parties have decided to resolve the matter.

Earlier, lawyer K. Shanmuga, representing M. Rajeswary and her children argued that the Syariah Court did not have the power to issue a court order for Raguram to be reburied according to Islamic rites and as such, the order should be quashed.

Related Articles:

He said Mais should have filed a suit in the civil courts instead and named Raguram’s family as parties to the case, adding that Raguram’s family should be part of any court cases to decide on his religious status as Raguram’s widow’s inheritance rights were directly affected.

He said the religious council, instead went to the Syariah Court to get an order declaring that Raguram was a Muslim and requested for a subpoena to be issued to Raguram’s widow to testify in the Syariah Court. He said the Syariah Court has no jurisdiction to issue the subpoena as Raguram’s widow is a non-Muslim.

Rajeswary and her two children are appealing against the High Court decision on Nov 10 last year in dismissing their judicial review.

High Court judge Dr Shahnaz Sulaiman ruled that the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear and determine whether Raguram died a Muslim. She said that determination fell exclusively within the domain of the Syariah Court.

Rajeswary and her children filed the judicial review in Sept 2020, naming Mais, the Syariah High Court and the Selangor government as respondents. They sought for a declaration that Raguram professed the Hindu religion when he died and the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction to determine his religious status.

They also sought an order prohibiting the Syariah High Court from giving the religious council the authority to exhume Raguram’s remains. Raguram was buried in a Hindu funeral ceremony on March 15, 2020. Mais filed court proceedings in the Syariah High Court in Shah Alam the next day.

Raguram was never registered with Islamic authorities as a Muslim and was also never issued a certificate of conversion to Islam, and his identity card states he is a Hindu.

On May 21, 2020, the Syariah High Court ruled that Raguram was a Muslim at the time of his death and allowed Mais to take necessary action to register and administer Raguram’s purported conversion and burial of his body in accordance with Islamic rites. - BERNAMA