Court Allows Religious Councils To Be Interveners In Herald Case

The High Court today allowed Islamic religious councils from seven states and the Federal Territory, together with the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association, to be interveners in a judicial review case on the use of the word "Allah" in the Catholic newsletter Herald.

However, High Court judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan, who made the decision in her chambers today, did not allow Majlis Gurdwara Malaysia to be an intervener.

In their application, the religious councils had argued that they had legal interest as they are advisers to the head of state, Sultan or Yang di-Pertua of the states. The MalaysianChinese Muslim Association had also argued that it had legal interest.

Majlis Gurdwara's lawyer, Balwant Singh Sidhu, said he will discuss with his client whether to appeal or not.

The case is fixed on Aug 25 for preliminary points to be raised by the interveners on the issue of non-justiciability.

On Feb 16, Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, as publisher of Herald, filed for a judicial review to quash the decision of the Home Ministry and the government, dated Jan 7,  that Herald's publication permit for the period Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2009, is subject to the condition that it be prohibited from using the word "Allah".

He is also seeking to declare that the decision of Home Ministry and the government was illegal and ultra vires the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The other seven declarations sought by Herald's publisher are:

  1. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise of his right that other religions other than Islam may be practised in peace.
  2. That Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution does not empower the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word "Allah" in the Herald.
  3. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the weekly in the exercise of his right to freedom of speech and expression.
  4. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise of his freedom of religion which includes the right to manage its own religious affairs.
  5. That the applicant has the constitutional right to use the word "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise his right in respect of education of the Catholic congregation in the Christian religion.
  6. That the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 does not authorise the respondents to prohibit the applicant from using the word "Allah" in the Herald and
  7. That the word "Allah" is not exclusive to the religion of Islam.

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