Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has on the eve of Malaysia Day confirmed that the controversial RUU 355 is on track.
Via a parliamentary reply, Ismail said the Federal Government is in the midst of drafting the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Act to increase the criminal powers of Shariah Courts.
He was responding to Pakatan Harapan’s Shah Alam MP, Khalid Abdul Samad who wanted to know about the government’s plan to strengthen the Shariah courts by way of amending the Act this year.
The Act is known by its number 355, and the proposal for the amendment is commonly known by the Malay initials for Rang Undang-undang, as RUU355.
“Throughout 2020 and 2021, the government, through the Islamic and Civil Law technical committee, under the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs, held a series of meetings to discuss RUU 355.”
“This is to look into various aspects, especially the constitution and syarak law so that RUU 355 is more comprehensive and further strengthens the criminal jurisdiction of the Shariah courts.”
The PM said the government Bill will be presented to the states for discussion once it is finalised. Islamic law falls under state jurisdiction in Malaysia.
He said among the measures undertaken to elevate the Shariah courts for them to be on par with civil courts was the establishment of a committee to study and enact the Shariah Courts (Federal Territories) Act 2022 (Courts Bill).
“The empowerment of Shariah courts also includes increasing the level of competence of Shariah judges, Shariah prosecutors and religious enforcement officers, improving governance and infrastructure of Shariah courts, and the amendment of existing Shariah laws.”
The controversy over the proposal to strengthen the Shariah courts first erupted when it was linked to hudud, and seen as a way to impose harsh punishments against Muslims perceived to run afoul of Islamic laws, including those in the LGBT community.
RUU355 was first tabled by PAS president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in the Dewan Rakyat on 26 May 2016 as a Private Member’s Bill.
The Bill as proposed by Hadi sought to raise 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.