Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) has been accused of attempting to speed up its prosecution of Borders’ store manager to pre-empt a judicial review being filed against it.
Rosli Dahlan, counsel for Berjaya Books Sdn Bhd and its Border's store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz said the haste in which Jawi is rushing its case is “appalling”.
He said it appears as if Jawi - in asking the Syariah Court to bring forward its case against Nik Raina - is trying to circumvent the book store's judicial review application challenging the authorities’ raid.
Rosli said the chief prosecutor knew that the next mention date is Sept 19 as he was there when Nik Raina was charged, but they have applied to bring it forward.
“The reason cited by Jawi to bring forward the case is to clarify the matter to the media and also bloggers. This is clearly an abuse of the court proceeding and abuse of court power.
“In Jawi's haste to speed up the proceeding, they want to see Nik Raina convicted. For this reason, we are applying for a stay of the Syariah court proceedings,” he told reporters after meeting Justice Rohana Yusof in chambers.
Berjaya Books, its general manager operations and merchandising, Stephen Fung Wye Keong, and Nik Raina had filed the judicial review to challenge Jawi's prosecution of the latter.
Nik Raina, 36, is being charged for distributing Irshad Manji's controversial book ‘Allah, Love and Liberty’ at its Gardens Midvalley store between 8.41pm and 9.45pm on May 23. The ban on the book was gazetted on May 29.
Liberty and rights
Senior federal counsel Effendi Nazati Abdullah, who oppose to the stated application had cited there were no special circumstances for the court to grant a stay.
However, Rosli submitted that Nik Raina's liberty and rights are at stake as she will have to face the persecution from Jawi and her constitutional right will be violated if the proceedings were held earlier.
“If Jawi abided the earlier proposal by the Syariah High Court on Sept 19, it would be alright as ample notice has been given as this civil court has fixed Sept 5 to hear the judicial review application.
“By Jawi bringing the case forward, it may infringed on Nik Raina's fundamental liberties and this is ample ground for the court to grant a stay,” he said.
Rosli said this judicial review is not about interfering a religious matter, but the issue is the misapplication of the law, where the laws are being abused to charge her and also bringing the case forward.
If found guilty, Nik Raina ( left ) faces a maximum fine of RM3,000, a two-year jail term or both.
“In view of Jawi's action, it is crucial that the stay application be heard as soon as possible as there is clear and present danger that the applicants (Berjaya Books, Stephen Fung and Nik Raina) will be harmed and prejudiced by Jawi's actions.
“To prevent the continuing abuse of power and the court process it is extremely necessary for the stay application be allowed and to preserve the status quo of the judicial review application, so it would not be rendered nugatory,” submit Rosli.
Also appearing for Berjaya Books is Ang Hean Leng, Bahari Yeow and Azri Malek.
Justice Rohana will decide on the stay application tomorrow. She earlier allowed Berjaya Books to amend its judicial review application despite strong objection by the respondents.
It was reported that while Nik Raina does not make the decision in book selection, she was nevertheless been charged by Jawi as she is a Muslim staff. Jawi cannot prosecute non-Muslims and the company.
Jawi raided Border's premises on May 24, and six days later, the Home Ministry had enforced the ban on the book by gazetting it. There was no prior fatwa issued to ban the book.
Borders had issued a strong statement against Jawi for victimising its Muslim staff .
Besides this judicial review, a separate judicial review has been filed by the book publisher ZI Publications Sdn Bhd and its director Mohd Ezra Mohd Zaid against the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department, its chief prosecutor, the Selangor and Malaysian government for banning the book.