NRD and govt unable to reach settlement in bin Abdullah case, appeal to proceed

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PUTRAJAYA (June 28): The government and the National Registration Department (NRD) have failed to reach an agreement regarding the plight of a nine-year-old boy who cannot use his paternal name, or what is dubbed the "bin Abdullah" case.

Hence, the appeal by NRD, its director general and government will proceed as scheduled before a seven-member Federal Court bench on Aug 16.

Lawyer Nizam Bashir, who appears for the affected family, when contacted by said the case management is done via e-review today.

"Senior Federal Counsel Mazlifah Ayub representing the appellants informed Court that parties are unable to settle the matter and they wished to proceed with the appeal.

"With this the appeal is scheduled on Aug 16," he said.

The names of the respected parents of the boy and the boy are being withheld by the court following the court order.

The hearing of this appeal will affect thousands of other children who are similarly affected.

Children are named bin or binti Abdullah by the NRD if they are conceived out of wedlock, but the child's father in this case agreed to marry the mother before the child was born.

In this case, the boy was registered by the NRD with the patronym "bin Abdullah".

However, the parents want him to bear the father's name and hence filed a judicial review to compel the NRD to make the name change.

While the family had lost in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, they won a landmark judgment in the Court of Appeal (COA), which was delivered by a three-member bench led by Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who is now the Chief Justice.

Justice Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli, who wrote the unanimous COA judgment in 2017, ruled that the NRD and its director general are not bound by the fatwa (religious edict) issued by the National Fatwa Committee to decide on the surname of a Muslim child conceived out of wedlock.

The NRD, the appellate court decision ruled, was only confined to determining whether the father had fulfilled the requirements under Section 13A(2) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1957.

With the appellate court's judgement, the NRD was ordered to change the child's patronym from "bin Abdullah" to that containing the father's name.

The fatwa referred here is the 2003 National Fatwa Council edict, which states that a child conceived out of wedlock or one of indeterminate paternity cannot carry the name of the person who claims to be the father if the child was born less than six months into a marriage.

At the Federal Court, the appeal was heard before a five-member bench led by the then Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif just before the 14th general election, but it did not deliver its decision.

When Raus was removed, then CJ Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, who had ordered the case to be reheard again, was told by the parties that there were three judges from the five still remaining who could deliver the judgment.

However, as the day approached, two of the three judges had retired last month, resulting in the Federal Court fixing the Aug 16 date should parties fail to settle the matter.