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Charging Siti Nuramira in Shariah Court May Lead to Double Jeopardy

Sisters in Islam raises serious concern over the potential double jeopardy that Siti Nuramira Abdullah will face in response to an article issued today in The Vibes titled “Siti Nuramira to be charged at shariah court”. It was reported that the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, had confirmed this matter with The Vibes’ sister portal, Getaran, but he didn’t disclose the date that she will be brought to the shariah court but stated that she would be charged under Section 7 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 for insulting, or bringing into contempt, etc. the religion of Islam.

Siti Nuramira is already charged in the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 13 July 2022, under Section 298A of the Penal Code with causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion and potentially faces a maximum five years imprisonment, if found guilty.

As she is already charged for the offence in Sessions Court, it is untenable that she should be charged for a similar offence in another court using the same facts as this may tantamount to double jeopardy. Article 7 of the Federal Constitution protects against double jeopardy. The principle of autrefois convict/acquit will be an issue when one of the courts has come to a decision, rendering the other redundant. The court in Jamali Adnan’s case gave the definition of “different offence”, which brings meaning to the offence whose ingredients are not the same. However, in this situation, Section 7 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 and Section 298A of the Penal Code are similar to each other. A person cannot be charged for the same offence twice.

It is a waste of taxpayers’ funds as it is our tax dollars that are paying for this “show of force”. The cost of investigation, calling for witnesses and trial proceedings will incur more funds for this repetitive action. 

Sisters in Islam urge the religious department of the Federal Territories and, by extension, the government to cease charging Siti Nuramira in the Shariah Court. We also call for calm,  reasonableness and proportionality of responses by the public and law enforcers on this matter, not just in relation to Siti Nuramira herself but especially to those within the community of comedians and those who provide the spaces and platforms for this particular form of art and expression.