Court lets Borders sue JAWI for ‘improper’ prosecution
UPDATED @ 04:47:40 PM 25-06-2012
KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — Bookstore operator Berjaya Books today won leave for a judicial review against the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) for what it claims was ‘improper’ prosecution against an employee and illegal seizure of a controversial book before it was banned by the Home Ministry.
Berjaya owns Borders Bookstores, whose store manager Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz was charged on June 19 in the Kuala Lumpur syariah court with distributing copies of a book by Canadian Muslim author Irshad Manji deemed to be against Islamic law (hukum syarak) and banned in Malaysia.
JAWI enforcers had raided the bookstore and seized Manji’s book titled “Allah, Liberty and Love” last May 23, but Borders note that the Home Ministry had only gazetted the book ban on May 29 and published it on June 14.
The Attorney-General's Chambers had asked for an adjournment of the ex-parte application, but the judge allowed the judicial review to go on without delay.
“The grounds for granting the leave for judicial review are there are merits to the case, it’s not premature, and the courts have jurisdiction,” Rosli Dahlan, the lawyer for Berjaya, told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.
The matter was decided in chambers before High Court judge Rohana Yusof.
The hearing date for the judicial review has been set for September 5.
The three applicants are Berjaya, Borders assistant general manager of operations and merchandising Stephen Fung and Borders Midvalley branch store manager Nik Raina.
They had sought leave for judicial review of the actions of JAWI, the home minister and the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic Religious Affairs.
In the submission, it was claimed that “JAWI’s action in raiding and seizing” the book at Borders and “arresting Nik Raina” was a “procedural impropriety” as the book was not banned then.
Since “the Syariah Offences Act is only applicable to Muslims” and “JAWI could not prosecute Borders and Stephen Fung as they are non-Muslims”, it is also claimed that JAWI’s prosecution of Nik Raina was done in bad faith and with an ulterior purpose.
Berjaya’s lawyers had also applied for a stay of proceedings of the syariah court case against Nik Raina in the same submission, but were told to file a separate application.
“But the court said that we will have to file it formally. Today was an ex-parte application and the court has told us to file another inter-parte application as the Attorney-General’s Chambers wants to contest it,” Rosli said.
Nik Raina has been charged under section 13 (1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997, which carries a penalty of a RM3,000 fine or a maximum of two years’ jail or both.
Borders had earlier said that Nik Raina as a store manager “does not have influence or control over the selection of books”.