malaysia

Malaysian Bar: Putrajaya obliged to obey court ruling on illegitimate children’s names

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese urges all parties, especially the authorities, to abide by the decision of the Court of Appeal, and to respect the judiciary and the process of the administration of justice. — Picture by Saw Siow FengMalaysian Bar president George Varughese urges all parties, especially the authorities, to abide by the decision of the Court of Appeal, and to respect the judiciary and the process of the administration of justice. — Picture by Saw Siow FengKUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 ― The Malaysian Bar cautioned National Registration Department (NRD) and the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) officials, as well as the deputy prime minister, that they risked contempt of court by prohibiting illegitimate Muslim children from bearing their father’s name.

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the government had the right to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s ruling that allowed Muslim fathers to give their names to their children conceived outside marriage, but stressed that all parties had to comply with the court decision unless there was an order for a stay of execution of the decision, or unless the Federal Court reversed the ruling.

“The Malaysian Bar urges all parties, especially the authorities, to abide by the decision of the Court of Appeal, and to respect the judiciary and the process of the administration of justice.

“To do otherwise would be an affront to the rule of law, and would lead Malaysia down the path of lawlessness,” George said in a statement last night.

NRD director-general Datuk Yazid Ramli recently said the department would continue with the convention of using “Abdullah” as the father’s name in cases of illegitimate Muslim births, pending the outcome of the appeal to the Federal Court.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the home minister, reportedly expressed support for the NRD’s stand, saying the department was carrying out its tasks according to the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Affairs’ ruling that prohibited illegitimate children from bearing their father’s name.

Jakim director-general Tan Sri Othman Mustapha said last Saturday that the department had the same stand as the NRD on the naming of illegitimate Muslim children, pending the Federal Court decision.

The Court of Appeal on July 25 released the written judgment of their landmark decision in a lawsuit by a Muslim child and his parents against the NRD that the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957 allowed illegitimate children to bear their father’s name, ruling also that a “fatwa” (religious edict) had no force of law.  

The Muslim child in the case was born less than six months from the date of his parents’ marriage and the NRD had stated the child’s patronym as “Abdullah” on the birth certificate, instead of his father’s name.

The NRD had cited the National Fatwa Committee’s 2003 fatwa that an illegitimate child, defined as one conceived out of wedlock or born fewer than six months from the date of the parents’ marriage, could not carry the father’s name. 

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