Federal Court Denies The Herald Leave To Appeal Ban On Use Of 'Allah'

Catholic weekly, The Herald, has failed to get leave from the Federal Court to challenge the Home Ministry over the ban on the use of the word “Allah”.

Chief Justice Ariffin Zakaria, who chaired a seven-man panel on Monday, held this in a majority decision. This is the first time that such a large panel has sat to hear and determine the application for leave.

In dismissing the application for leave, Justice Arifin held that the minister’s decision with regard the ban was lawful and reasonable.

Justice Arifin said that Court of Appeal president Justice Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Federal Court judge Justice Suriyadi Halim Omar had read his judgment and agreed with him.

In a dissenting judgment, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum said leave should be given in consideration of the degree of public importance of the case and the necessity of the Federal Court to resolve questions of law.

Two other Federal Court judges who gave dissenting judgments are Justices Zainun Ali and Jeffrey Tan.

The seven-member panel led by Justice Arifin had, on March 5, heard submissions from both parties on the leave application.

The Federal Court’s decision not to grant leave effectively means that the decision of the Court of Appeal stands and there can be no more appeals by the Church.

The legal tussle goes back to 2009, when the Roman Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, filed a judicial review application, naming the Home Ministry and the Government as respondents, seeking, among others, a declaration that the ministry’s decision to prohibit the use of the word “Allah” in The Herald was illegal.

The Court of Appeal had set aside the Dec 31, 2009 decision of a High Court, which allowed the weekly to use the word after it declared the Home Ministry’s decision in prohibiting the publication from using the word “Allah” was illegal, null and void.

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