Tuesday 31 July 2012

Jais stopped from acting against book publisher

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has granted an interim stay preventing Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais) from investigating and prosecuting ZI Publications and its director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid.

Ezra is scheduled to report before the Syariah Lower Court tomorrow as he has been asked by the authorities to do so.

Following today's development, the Syariah Court is not expected  to charge Mohd Ezra tomorrow.

NONEJudge Rohana Yusuf also granted ZI Publications and Ezra leave to initiate a judicial review against the seizure of the book Allah, Liberty and Love by Manji Irshad.

Following the interim stay granted today, ZI Publications has seven days to file an inter-party stay.

This is because the Selangor government, which is named as one of the respondents, in the judicial review application was not represented in today's proceedings.

It should have been represented by the Selangor legal adviser. The court also ordered the Selangor government to file its full judicial review application as soon as possible.

The court also fixed Sept 5 to hear the judicial review application of Erza and ZI Publications.

Lawyers Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, K Shanmuga and Nizam Bashir who appeared for ZI Publications and senior federal counsel Nor Hisham Ismail who represented federal government met with Justice Rohana in her chambers.

ZI Publications and Mohd Ezra has named Jais, its director-general, its chief enforcement officer, its syariah chief prosecutor and the Selangor and Malaysian governments as respondents.
Unlike the bookseller Border's case, Ezra is yet to be charged with any offence, resulting in the court granting a temporary stay.

In the case of Borders, owned by Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd, its store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was been charged at the Kuala Lumpur Syariah Court last month for allegedly distributing materials that go against Islamic teachings.

'Jais had no jurisdiction to enter premises'

In the application filed earlier this month, ZI Publications and Ezra claimed that Jais and its officers had no jurisdiction to enter into their premises on May 29, as it was a company and the authorities could only take action against Muslims.

Furthermore, the warrant is for a search and hence Jais and its officers do not have the authority to seize the books.

Ezra further claimed his arrest violated his constitutional right to freedom of expression, which could only be limited by Parliament and not by the Selangor legislative assembly. He also claimed Section 16(1) of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment was ultra vires the federal constitution on the freedom of expression.

NONEAlternatively, Erza and ZI Publications claimed the seizure of the books was a violation of the freedom of religion.

Since there is a federal law limiting the freedom of expression based on the Publications and Printing Presses Act (PPPA), the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment, a state law, is therefore inconsistent with the federal constitution.

The two plaintiffs sought a declaration that Section 16 of the enactment is null and void as it violates the federal constitution on the freedom of expression. They are also seeking an order of  certiorari to quash the actions of the authorities in raiding, seizing the books and arresting.

Ezra and ZI Publications are also seeking a write of mandamus to compel the authorities to return the books and cancel the arrest order.

Furthermore, they are seeking a declaration that the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and the Syariah Criminal Procedure Code are only applicable to Muslims and not to companies.

They further contend that the Syariah Criminal Offences law does not criminalise acts of book translations and based on Article 121(1), the proper forum to interpret the PPPA on the enactment is the civil bench of the High Court, not the syariah court.

The two are also seeking a stop to any Jais action until the disposal of their judicial review application and other relief deemed necessary by the court.

They also filed a judicial review seeking to lift the ban on the book and his matter has been fixed for hearing on Aug 13.

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