Federal Court erred in giving custody to Muslim convert, says Bar chief


Source: The Malaysian Insider

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 23, 2016.

The Malaysian Bar has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Court’s decision to grant Muslim convert custody of his son despite being in contempt of a High Court order.

Its president, Steven Thiru, said Izwan Abdullah (or N.Viran) defied the High Court custody order as well as a specific order prohibiting him from removing the children from ex-wife, S. Deepa.

He said Deepa was compelled to obtain a recovery order to direct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and his officers to regain custody of her son, Mithran (Nabil) from Izwan.

“They did not comply with the recovery order, on the basis that there were conflicting custody orders by the Shariah Court and High Court,” he said in a statement.

He said the Federal Court had erroneously exonerated the inspector-general of police (IGP) and his officers for not complying with the High Court’s recovery order by holding that the Shariah Court custody order was valid until it was set aside.

The Seremban Shariah Court issued a custody order to Izwan on September 19, 2013,  after he had converted Sharmila (Nurul Nabila) and Mithran (Nabil).

On April 7, 2014 the High Court, in dissolving the civil marriage of Deepa, 31, and Izwan (N. Viran), 33, gave the mother the custody of both children.

Two days later, Izwan went to Deepa’s home in Jelebu, Negri Sembilan, and snatched the boy from the mother’s custody. Mithran has since remained under the guardianship of the father.

On February 10, a five-men bench chaired by Tan Sri Raus Sharif varied the custody order and gave Izwan custody of the Mithran, now 8, while Deepa retained Sharmila, 11.

Thiru said IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and his officers should not have relied on the flawed Shariah Court custody order and they acted in breach of the High Court’s custody order in refusing to enforce the High Court’s recovery order.

He said this exoneration by the Federal Court may be inferred as tacit approval of Izwan’s conduct in abducting the son, which the Seremban High Court described as “an act of contempt of the grossest kind”.

“The ex-husband appears to have been emboldened by the exculpation of the IGP and his officers.  He has yet to be held accountable for his wrongdoing,” he said.

Thiru said the Malaysian Bar was also very concerned with the apparent last-minute decision by the Federal Court to interview the children in court, before the custody order was varied.

“This was improper, and undoubtedly an intimidating and scarring experience for the children,” he added.

Thiru said the Malaysian Bar, however, welcomed the ruling that affirmed the settled principle that the civil courts have exclusive jurisdiction over civil marriages contracted under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

“The Federal Court correctly decided that the civil courts shall continue to have jurisdiction in respect of divorce and custody of children, notwithstanding the conversion of one party to Islam,” he added. – February 23, 2016


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