PUTRAJAYA, Dec 30 — The appellate court’s ruling today on unilateral conversions in M Indira Gandhi’s case is a major setback for the country’s religious minorities, a representative of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) said.
Lawyer Philip Koh, who was holding a watching brief for the council, said the decision meant that the spouse in a civil law marriage could unilaterally convert a child without the permission or knowledge of his estranged partner.
“This is a sad day for minority faith communities,” he told reporters after the appellate court delivered its ruling.
Koh said, however, that it was heartening that at least one judge in the three-man panel had disagreed with the unilateral conversions of Indira’s three children by her ex-husband.
The lawyer also expressed disappointment that although non-Muslims are often assured that their rights under the Federal Constitution would be protected, this was more dependant on how jurisprudence is applied by judges.
“It appears now… that this very protection is rendered meaningless, so that a mother of a child can have her baby being taken away and she’s not given access to the child for seven years,” he added, referring to Indira’s case.
In a 2-1 decision today, the three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal headed by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi overturned an Ipoh High Court’s previous ruling that declared unilateral conversions unconstitutional. Read more