A lawyer's lament that a proposed unilateral conversion bill should have been debated in the Selangor state assembly is "misconceived," said DAP lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh.
"While there seems to be no restriction in debating a bill which proposes a law which has been declared unconstitutional by the highest court of the land, common sense clearly dictates that such a course would be a waste of time," he said in a statement today.
Ramkarpal was responding to comments made by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla that legislative bodies cannot be prevented from tabling amendments or laws because of prior judicial rulings.
At present, the Selangor enactment reads that those below 18 must obtain the consent of the "mother and father" before embracing Islam. The amendment seeks to change this to "mother or father."
The Bahasa Malaysia version of the Federal Constitution also refers to "mother or father" with regard to consent for conversion.
However, the apex court last year made a landmark ruling in the M Indira Gandhi case that the constitution should not be interpreted literally, and the consent of both parents are needed for the conversion of minors.
The Bukit Gelugor MP said this clearly showed unilateral conversions were unconstitutional, and states are bound by this decision unless it is overruled by the Federal Court or overtaken by amendments to the Federal Constitution.
"As such, debating a bill which proposes a law which is clearly unconstitutional in the Selangor state assembly would serve no purpose.
"Furthermore, passing such a law in Selangor will cause unnecessary uncertainty as it may result in the application of a law which has been declared unconstitutional and of no effect.
"In such a scenario, unnecessary costs for the purposes of litigating matters in which such a law has been applied would be incurred," he said.
Haniff (photo) had argued that the matter of the bill’s constitutionality could be brought to court after it had been tabled or passed in the state assembly.
He also said that, after the Indira ruling, uncertainties remained about whether jurisdiction over conversion is under the purview of syariah or civil courts.
On Wednesday, Malaysiakini reported that Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari had planned to table a bill allowing for unilateral conversion at the state assembly sitting which concluded on July 31.
This was despite objections from a majority of Pakatan Harapan assemblypersons, and even members of his own cabinet.
The bill was reportedly scuttled after speaker Ng Suee Lim refused to sign a document allowing it to be tabled.