Govt to discuss Act 355 draft amendments at state levels next year

Govt to discuss Act 355 draft amendments at state levels next year
Govt to discuss Act 355 draft amendments at state levels next year

PARLIAMENT | The latest draft amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, known as Act 355, will be presented for state-level discussions by early next year before tabled in parliament.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (above) said the discussion process will be led by a civil and syariah law technical committee from the Islamic Affairs Department (Jakim), as the body tasked to draft the amendments.

He said the government had on Aug 16 appointed a new set of technical committee members comprising experts in syariah and civil law and a series of meetings were held to come up with the current draft amendments.

"Following that, from Oct 1 to Oct 3, the technical committee held a special meeting to draft the amendments based on inputs agreed upon through previous discussions. As a result, the technical committee has successfully drafted an amendment bill.

"The technical committee has planned to table the proposed amendments to Act 355 at the state level in a legal dialogue and conference scheduled by early next year," he said in response to Ahmad Fadhli Shaari (PAS-Pasir Mas).

Marzuk said the state-level dialogues will involve not only religious authorities but also other stakeholders including state legal advisors.

Earlier, Marzuk reiterated the government's commitment to enhance the powers of the syariah courts, and the discussion process was held to ensure it can be carried out in line with the Federal Constitution.

Amending Act 355 is often used by PAS as a rallying point for its supporters. In September, PAS Youth chief Khairil Nizam Khirudin at the party's annual gathering expressed hope that the amendments would be tabled in this current sitting.

Colloquially referred to as the “Hudud bill”, it is deemed controversial as it could pave the way for the Islamic penal code to be partially implemented in Kelantan. The PAS-governed state already has an enactment to the effect.

Public debates on the subject had sparked since May 2016 after PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang proposed a private member’s bill to amend the act to remove limits on punishments.

This was, however, rejected by the then BN administration.

He later proposed a revised version of the bill where penalties were to be capped at 30 years' jail, an RM100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of the rotan.

The current limits are three years of jail, an RM5,000 fine, and six strokes.

Despite being tabled in 2017, the bill has never been debated after the Dewan Rakyat postponed it several times.