KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — The Anwar administration has confirmed that it aims to table the contentious amendment to the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 — also known by its Malay initials RUU355 — following green light from the Cabinet.
In a written reply, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Senator Datuk Mohd Na'im Mokhtar said the amendment Bill will be tabled alongside the Shariah Courts (Federal Territories) Bill in a bid to empower the Shariah judicial system.
"The two Bills will be tabled in Parliament to ensure that the wish for the empowerment of the Shariah Courts can be realised after getting approval from the Cabinet," he told the Parliament.
The written reply was in response to a question by Perikatan Nasional's (PN) Pendang MP Datuk Awang Hashim that asked about the government's commitment to table the motion.
Mohd Na'im also said that drafting the Bill related to Shariah Courts related to Federal Territories would take the provisions of the existing Shariah criminal law.
"The drafting of the Shariah Court (Federal Territories) Bill will take into account the provisions relating to the criminal jurisdiction of the Shariah Court proposed in the amendment to the Shariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965," he added.
However, the minister did not clarify a specific timeline on when the Cabinet will approve the Bill to be tabled in the lower House.
Previously, Islamist party PAS had attempted to table the Bill seeking harsher punishments for Shariah offences, raising the Shariah courts’ maximum sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the cane. The current limits are three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six strokes.
The party had initially aimed for the amendment to ultimately pave the way to implement Quranic laws in Malaysia, including removing the barriers to enacting the Islamic criminal code of hudud.
This included empowering Islamic courts to enforce any punishment ― except for the death penalty ― provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.
Following opposition from the public, the Bill has since been presented as a resolution to strengthen the Shariah court.
It has since become a hot-button topic affecting each administration, and promising support for it is one of the ways for Malay-majority parties to elicit Malay-Muslims voters during elections. There are six state elections that are expected to be held in July.