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Out-of-wedlock children’s names: NRD gets stay on order

PUTRAJAYA: The Apex Court here has granted an application by the National Registration Department (NRD) and two others to stay a Court of Appeal ruling that a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock can use his or her father's surname instead of “bin Abdullah.”
Chief Justice Raus Sharif, who chaired a three-man panel of the Federal Court on Monday, allowed the application by Senior Federal Counsel Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh who acted for the NRD, its director-general, and the Government.
Justice Md Raus later fixed Sept 8 for the hearing of the application for leave by the three appellants.
He also granted an application by the Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAIJ) to intervene in the leave application, but struck out an application by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAWIP).
“I do not want multiple parties to intervene and argue on the same points. Why should MAWIP want to be a party in this application?” Justice Md Raus said.
Other judges on the panel were Court of Appeal President Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Justice Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin.
The NRD, its director-general and the Government applied for a stay of the Court of Appeal decision on May 25, while MAIJ and MAWIP applied to become parties (interveners).
Justice Zulkefli later told MAIJ and MAWIP’s counsel Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah that the respondents (the child and his parents) were from Johor, and that was why MAIJ should come in as an intervener.
Sulaiman agreed with Justice Zulkefli and said they applied to become an intervener as it involved the position of Islam and a fatwa by the Johor state government.
Justice Md Raus then allowed the application by MAIJ and struck out MAWIP's request to become an intervener, with no cost.
He had earlier advised the parties to become amicus curiae (friend of the court) as this was a judicial review application and not a suit, and asked the respondents' counsel K. Shanmuga whether he had any objection.
Shanmuga objected to MAIJ and MAWIP becoming parties but agreed for the two councils to become amicus curiae.
On May 25, the Court of Appeal’s three-man panel chaired by Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat unanimously ruled that the NRD director-general was not bound by a fatwa or religious edict issued by the National Fatwa Committee to decide on the surname of a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock.
The other judges were Justices Abdul Rahman Sebli and Zaleha Yusof.
In the judgment, Justice Abdul Rahman said the director-general’s jurisdiction was a civil one and was confined to determining whether the child’s parents had fulfilled the requirements under the Birth and Deaths Registration Act 1957, which covers all illegitimate children, Muslim or non-Muslim.
Justice Abdul Rahman said the director-general had acted irrationally in refusing to alter a child's surname from “Abdullah” to that of the child’s father in the birth certificate, on the purported grounds that the fatwa did not allow it.
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