KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 — A civil rights group reminded the National Registration Department (NRD) today that its duties did not include acting as a “moral police”, after the country’s second-highest court declared the agency had no right to deny children born out of wedlock the right to bear their father’s name.
BEBAS welcoming the Court of Appeal’s decision and said the NRD must take note of the ruling, which among others, outlined clearly that the department director-general is a civil officer and that he had the duty to uphold civil laws.
“The NRD’s job is that of an official register of births, deaths, citizenship, marriage, divorce and religious status, among others,” the group said in a statement.
“It has no business ceding its authority to the National Fatwa Council, any religious department or the Shariah courts, on any matter.
“They are not to function as moral police,” it added.
BEBAS also said the implication of the ruling should be extended to all government departments, including the Department of the Islamic Development in the Prime Minister’s Department, which are obligated to treat all equally before the law.
“Remember that they have a duty to uphold the Federal Constitution and to treat all Malaysians equally before the law.
“Care must be taken at all times to avoid violating the law in making administrative decisions related to Muslims,” it said.
The Court of Appeal had in a verdict delivered in May asserted that the NRD director-general is a civil officer bound by civil law.
This means the agency should have referred to provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA) — in this case being Section 13A (2) of the Act — for any decisions relating to a child’s last name instead of referring to the fatwa.
The three judge panel-led by Justice Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli also declared in their ruling that edicts issued by the National Fatwa Council are not law.
The panel also noted that the practice of putting “bin Abdullah” as the last name of out-of-wedlock children will only expose them to humiliation and social persecution, a view shared by BEBAS.
“The end of this cruel and humiliating practice towards children corrects an injustice which aims to impose punishment for the so-called “sins” of their parents.
“Such motivation or rationale must have no place or bearing in legislative and government decisions,” the group said.
The NRD and government have since filed for a leave application against the appellate court’s decision to allow a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock to bear the father’s name.
Malay Mail Online could not reach the NRD for comment at the time of writing.