Jakim’s newly formed special committee may just take over the task of empowering shariah courts from Hadi and PAS


Two things on Thursday gave a clear indication that the PAS-sponsored amendment bill to Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 could soon become a government bill.

First, PAS president Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill on the proposed amendments was not debated in the current meeting of the Dewan Rakyat which ended yesterday despite it being pushed up the order paper.

The bill was on No. 10 in the order paper at the start of the meeting. It was then pushed to No. 6 in the order paper after four bills were deferred to the next sitting in October.

However the bill – which according to Hadi and PAS was aimed at strengthening the shariah courts – was deferred again.

The bill had been deferred on the last day of the last two sessions of the Dewan. On both occasions, the bill was read out by Hadi, the Marang MP, but was deferred without being debated.

The next Dewan Rakyat sitting will take place in October which is the budget session.

Also on Thursday, the Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim) announced that it has set up a special national-level committee called the Shariah Courts Empowerment Committee (JKMMS).

Jakim director-general Othman Mustapha said the special committee was formed following a directive from the Cabinet at its meeting on Aug 4, aimed at “empowering the syariah judicial system, in line with the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution”.

JKMMS will have two implementation committees, and will look at harmonisation between civil law and shariah law and the proposed amendments to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).

It will also look at management and structure of shariah courts; training of shariah judges and officers: shariah law education and shariah counsel affairs.

The most interesting aspect of this committee is its task to look into the proposed amendments to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965.

Hadi’s bill seeks to grant shariah courts the power to impose stiffer penalties on all crimes except those with the death sentence.

He wants to amend Section 2 of Act 355 to increase the current punishment cap from three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six lashes to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 and 100 lashes.

Non-Umno BN component leaders, several opposition leaders, NGOs and civil society movements have objected Hadi’s private member’s bill on the grounds that it would create a parallel civil and shariah legal systems in the country.

There are also worries that with the passing of this amendment, the implementation of hudud would become possible in the future.

Umno however had brushed aside these fears, saying that the aim of Hadi’s bill was only to empower the shariah courts.

In fact BN supreme council decided that it would not force its coalition partners to support Hadi’s bill if it comes up for voting in parliament.

As for the non-Umno BN leaders, their stand was that they would object the bill sponsored by PAS, but had conceded that they would have to back any government bills.

Given that situation, seen in light of the two developments on Thursday, what could happen is this: the Jakim special committee may recommend the same or similar amendments to Act 355 as proposed by Hadi to empower “the syariah judicial system, in line with the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution.”

The recommendation would be tabled by the minister in charged of Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, to the Cabinet, which would then agree to the recommendation and decide to table such a bill in parliament.

The end result? Hadi and PAS get what they wanted but how will the non-Umno BN leaders react?

If they do toe the BN whip line, then we may just see the amendments to Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 taking place in October.