Allowing PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Member's Bill to pass into law would be tantamount to handing state legislatures a ‘blank cheque’, former judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus has reportedly said.
He warned that if the bill was passed, state legislatures would “now may create any offence as they deem fit, and may prescribe any form of sentence, however severe or harsh, as they deem fit (as long as it is not the death penalty)”.
Hishammuddin - a former appellate court judge of both civil and Syariah courts - was quoted as saying this in a report published in the The Star daily today.
He is also a member of the G25 group, but was speaking in his personal capacity.
Hishammuddin served 42 years as a judge and officer in the Judicial and Legal Service, including postings at the drafting division of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and as the Selangor legal advisor. He retired in September last year.
In his five years at the drafting division, he said no Private Member's Bill had ever received government support, let alone being brought forward by an opposition MP.
Thus, it was “not only unprecedented but also highly unusual” for Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said to suspend government business and give priority to Hadi, he reportedly said of the May 26 parliamentary sitting.
During the sitting, Azalina moved to allow Hadi to table an application for leave to table his Private Member's Bill, which seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 such that Syariah Courts can impose any punishment allowed by state law, except the death penalty.
This would be a step up in the severity of punishments compared to the current upper limit of three years’ imprisonment, RM5,000 in fines, and six strokes of whipping.
The amendment is widely seen as a move to pave way for the implementation of harsh punishments under hudud law, except for offences that call for the death penalty.
Hadi’s motion has been tabled, but has yet to be debated or voted upon.
Hishammuddin reportedly said Hadi’s bill is unconstitutional, as criminal matters come under federal jurisdiction and not state jurisdiction.
“If Parliament were to pass this bill, it is tantamount to the august house abdicating its constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight and control over state legislatures in the creation of offences and sentences.
“Parliament would be going against the spirit and intention of the Federal Constitution,” he said.