06 July, 2009

Mohan Singh a Muslim ?!

Malaysia's high court has ruled that a Sikh man converted to Islam before his death, over the objections of his family who are demanding the return of his body, his lawyer said Monday.

The Sikh family lost a court battle Monday in Muslim-majority Malaysia for the right to cremate one of their relatives after officials said the man had converted to Islam years before his death.

The High Court said that deceased art director Mohan Singh was a Muslim, and dismissed an application for judicial review by his family after ruling that the court had no jurisdiction over the case. It also ordered that the body be released to the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) for burial.

Judge Rosnani Saub said that since she made a finding that Mohan’s Sijil Akuan Masuk Islam in the 1959 Penang Enactment proved he had converted to Islam in 1992, the Selangor Syariah Court should, therefore, have the jurisdiction to determine whether he was still a Muslim or otherwise, at the time of his death.

“This is provided for under Section 61 (3)(b)(xi) of the Selangor State Enactment and by virtue of Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, this court has no jurisdiction over the matter,” she said when reading her written judgment on the case here today.

She said the Sijil Akuan Masuk Islam was enough proof that Mohan converted to Islam in 1992, with the conversion taking place in Penang; pursuant to Section 113 (2) of the Selangor State Enactment, he was to be treated as Muslim in this state and subjected to the provisions of the Selangor State Enactment.

The fact that Mohan’s lifestyle and conduct was inconsistent of a Muslim convert did not change his status as a Muslim according to the law, added Rosnani.

Rosnani said the application of judicial review was dismissed with costs to the health ministry, director-general, Sungai Buloh Hospital director, Selangor government, Malaysian government and MAIS.

She added that the High Court interim order dated June 1, this year, disallowing the hospital to release the body to any party until disposal of the civil proceedings, was also dissolved.

Mohan’s family applied for the judicial review to quash a decision by the ministry’s director-general and hospital director to stop them from claiming his body from the hospital, as well as requesting a confirmation from MAIS, whether the deceased died a Muslim or otherwise.

Mohan, whose Muslim name was Mohammad Hazzery Shah Mohan Abdullah, died at an apartment in Damansara Damai on June 25, this year, as a result of heart attack, according to a post-mortem at the hospital.
The Syariah High Court had on June 4 ruled that Mohan was a Muslim when he died and should be buried according to Muslim rites.

At the proceeding, Mohan’s family was represented by counsel Rajesh Kumar. MAIS was represented by Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar while Mohd Radhi Abbas appeared for the other respondents.

Meanwhile, MAIS public relations officer Rohana Hassan told reporters that the agency would claim the body for burial in the evening at the Muslim cemetery in Sungai Buloh.

However, she said MAIS would allow Mohan’s family to pay their last respects to the deceased before burial.

"The family is very disappointed with the ruling as they wanted to get his body and cremate him under Sikh rites, but it was expected and we are now rushing to appeal," family lawyer Rajesh Kumar told AFP.

Muslim burial today

"We are hoping that the family will be allowed to appeal but the Muslim authorities now have custody of the body and they are expected to rush a Muslim burial by today, which will make the situation worse," he said.

Kumar said that presiding high court judge Rosnaini Saub had refused to grant a stay order on the ruling, which would have allowed the body to be kept at a hospital morgue pending the appeal.

"This makes it very hard because if we win on appeal, it would be difficult to exhume the body from a Muslim graveyard as that would upset Muslims."

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