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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Shariah courts ‘split proceedings’ for divorce costly, says lawyer

Former syarie judge admits practice of separating various matters in divorce cases into many proceedings was to give impression they were handling a lot of cases.
PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has questioned the need for shariah courts to split issues arising from a divorce into multiple proceedings, a practice which a former syarie judge admitted “creates the illusion” they were handling a lot of cases.
This comes after a Bernama report quoted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said as saying the Legal Aid Department’s case registration statistics in the first quarter of this year showed that 50-70% were shariah cases, mostly involving divorce.
The minister said there was a need for the department to scrutinise applications from the public to ensure only those who qualified were accorded services.
Syarie lawyer Nizam Bashir said the shariah courts’ practice of splitting issues arising from divorces such as divorce, child custody and matrimonal property, actually made divorces more expensive.
“These are all separate and distinct proceedings in shariah courts, while the reverse is true for civil courts,” he told FMT.
He said the rationale for splitting the issues could be to allow disputes to be solved more quickly.
“However, this seems to have come at a cost. I think it’s better to firstly look at statistics. How fast are cases being settled these days compared with before?
“If there’s no evidence that cases are handled faster because of this, then there isn’t any reason to continue the practice and if there is evidence, then one has to question whether the cost is worth it.”
Meanwhile, ex-syarie judge Ismail Yahya told FMT that the reason the practice of splitting divorce issues in states was to “create the illusion” that shariah courts were handling a lot of cases.
“At least, that’s how it started. They just never got rid of the practice.
However, some courts have noted that there is no reason to continue with this practice and that everything should be handled under one file,” he said.
On whether divorce cases were settled faster or more efficiently by splitting the issues, Ismail disagreed.
“I personally don’t think so. Sometimes it even prolongs matters.”
He also called on syarie lawyers to take a principled stance on the matter.
“Some syarie lawyers don’t complain about this because when you split up these cases, lawyers end up getting more money. If they feel the practice shouldn’t continue, then they should say something.” -FMT

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