Deepa should wait for outcome of Indira’s conversion appeal, say lawyers

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

S. Deepa says there should be better laws to safeguard women like her, especially when their husbands convert to Islam. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 14, 2016.

Lawyers have advised Hindu mother S. Deepa to wait for the Federal Court outcome on unilateral conversion before she decides to determine the religious status of her two children.

They said the legal challenge mounted by kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi from Ipoh could be decided this year.

“It is best for Deepa to wait for a Federal Court decision on unilateral conversion before deciding her next move,” lawyer K. Shanmuga told The Malaysian Insider.

Indira’s ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, formerly known as K. Patmanathan, had unilaterally converted their three children to Islam.

In Deepa’s case, her former husband Izwan Abdullah embraced Islam and also converted their children, Sharmila, 11, and Mithran, 8, before getting custody of the children from the Seremban Shariah Court in 2012.

The Seremban High Court in 2014 gave Deepa custody of the children, thus revoking the religious court order.

On February 10, the Federal Court ordered that custody of Mithran was to be given to the father while the mother retained Sharmila.

Unlike Indira, Deepa did not challenge the conversion certificates of the children that were issued by the Negeri Sembilan Religious Department.

Lawyer M. Kulasegaran said Deepa’s case did not address the underlying issue of conversion of childen and the effect on the non-Muslm spouse when the other partner converted to Islam.

“Wednesday’s apex court ruling did not give an indication whether the civil court could determine the unilateral conversion issue,” said Kulasegaran, a Federal lawmaker.

He said it was misleading for MIC president Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam to claim that Deepa’s case has solved the issue of conflicting court orders on conversion of minors to Islam.

Family law practitioner Honey Tan said Deepa may run foul of the law for propagating her religious values on Sharmila.

“Having custody of Sharmila does not mean that her daughter is no longer a Muslim,” she said.

She said based on a previous Federal Court ruling, it would appear that Deepa’s daughter would have to apply to the Shariah Court to determine that she was not a Muslim.

Tan said while it was heart-wrenching to see the siblings parted, she was also concerned that the Federal Court judges had interviewed the children.

“The Law Reform Act and the Convention on the Rights of the Child allow for children to have a say in where they are placed when their parents divorce, and that is only right,” she added. – February 14, 2016.

 

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