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Everest mountaineer ‘body snatching’ case decision on August 6

Contributed by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 21 @ 09:42:52 CDT

Religion, July 21 2010

July 21, 2010
PUTRAJAYA, July 21 – The widow of Mount Everest climber, Sargeant M. Moorthy, may finally get a chance to lay her husband to rest according to Hindu rites five years after his death and burial in a Muslim cemetery. The Court of Appeal here set August 6 to deliver its decision on which court  — civil or syariah — has the power to determine the religious status of the dead soldier,  born a Hindu, who is said to have converted to Islam a year before his death.

Malaysia practices a unique dual-court system, which has caused more confusion over which court has the final say, especially in inter-religious disputes such as custody fights over minors when one parent converts to Islam. Moorthy’s Hindu widow, S. Kaliammal has been involved in a legal tussle with the Federal Territories Islamic Council (Jawi) and the federal government over her husband’s remains since his death on December 20, 2005. A government lawyer had caused a stir in court earlier today when he argued to uphold the High Court ruling that the civil courts had no jurisdiction to hear matters involving the religion of Islam, including the right of a non-Muslim to claim the spouse’s remains in conversion dispute. “There is no automatic legal right for a wife to claim her husband’s body,” senior federal counsel Mahamad Naser Disa told a three-man bench led by Datuk Zainun Ali. The other judges on the panel were Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail and Datuk Clement Allan Skinner. Kaliammal had lost the case at the High Court five years ago when the judge ruled he could not hear the dispute because conversions into Islam were strictly the jurisdiction of the syariah court. Mahamad Naser was representing the federal government and Hospital Kuala Lumpur, where Moorthy was treated before his death and which had released the latter’s body to Muslim authorities for a Muslim burial after being alerted of his convert status. Fellow senior federal counsel Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari added that Kaliammal had the chance to question her husband’s convert status in the Syariah Court but rejected the opportunity. “Under Section 83(2) of the Federal Territory Syariah Court Evidence Act 1997, she can come in and testify as a witness through the Islamic Council, even if not as a party,” Arik said, debunking the view that non-Muslims are barred from having a say in the syariah court. Arik cited the 2006 case of Nyonya Tahir, born into a Muslim family but adopted by a Chinese family who raised her as a Buddhist and allowed to be buried according to Buddhist rites, to show the syariah court was not biased. The lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers was backing veteran lawyer and former Bar Council president Sulaiman Abdullah, for Jawi. Sulaiman had argued that an adult has the right to convert and no one could question his decision, including his spouse. Moorthy, who part of the first Malaysian  expedition to Mount Everest in 1997, is said to have followed his elder brother’s footsteps and embraced Islam on October 11, 2004. Kaliammal, now 32, and a mother of one insists her husband was a practising Hindu to the day he died. She was stunned when several Jawi officials appeared at Hospital Kuala Lumpur — where he passed away after suffering a head injury falling out of his wheelchair a month earlier — to take his body away for a Muslim funeral. Kaliammal wants the case returned to the High Court so she can challenge the validity of a 2005 Federal Territory Syariah Court do*****ent declaring Moorthy a Muslim and ordering the latter be given a Muslim funeral. She was represented by M. Manoharan, while lawyers Edmund Bon acted for the Bar Council and Aston Paiva stood for the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hindusim, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).



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