Malaysia’s top court declares several Islamic laws in Kelantan state unconstitutional

By Thomson Reuters Feb 8, 2024 | 7:39 PM

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s top court on Friday declared more than a dozen Islamic laws enacted by the northeastern state of Kelantan as unconstitutional, in a decision that could affect the legality of sharia in other parts of the Muslim-majority country.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims, running alongside civil laws. Islamic laws are enacted by state legislatures while civil laws are passed by Malaysia’s parliament.

The Federal Court, in an 8-1 decision of the nine-member bench, on Friday declared 16 laws in Kelantan’s sharia criminal code “void and invalid”, including provisions criminalising sodomy, sexual harassment, desecrating places of worship and sexual intercourse with a corpse.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat who delivered the majority judgement said the state had no power to enact the laws, as the subject of the legal provisions were covered under parliament’s law-making powers.

“We therefore allow the petition’s application for a declaration that (these laws) are void and invalid,” she said.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, whose coalition includes the hardline Islamist party PAS, in a statement on Thursday said the case could have a negative impact on the country’s sharia legal system, and called on the government to amend the constitution to strengthen the Islamic laws and judiciary.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)