PUTRAJAYA, April 22 ― M. Indira Gandhi today received a fresh shot at having the courts compel the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to find and return her child that was taken by her Muslim convert ex-husband six years ago.
Her lawyer M. Kulasegaran said the Federal Court granted his client leave this morning to appeal against a previous court ruling that decided against compelling the police to find the child Prasana Diksa.
He said he hopes seven judges will sit on the Federal Court bench to hear this case, instead of the usual five judges at the country's highest court.
“We are very happy that the Federal Court allowed a very important point of law to be fully ventilated, to be argued and we hope a full bench will sit to hear this case,” he told reporters here.
Aston Paiva, who also represented Indira, spoke of the high stakes involved in this appeal hearing.
“If we are not successful at the end of the day to get mandamus, we have to accept the fact that she'll never get to see her daughter again,” he told reporters.
“Unless until one day, when the daughter is older, she comes to the mother and says 'I heard about this'...We don't even know where the husband is,” he added.
The mandamus order is crucial to get the IGP to enforce two court orders ― an arrest warrant against Indira's estranged husband Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah who is in contempt of court for not returning the child and a recovery order to get the police to track down and return the child to Indira.
Kulasegaran said a strong message must be sent to the IGP that he has no discretion to choose which court orders to enforce, adding: “Any orders of the court, a policeman must comply within the meaning of the Police Act and the discretion is not with him.”
Indira, whose daughter was barely a year old when her estranged husband ran off with the child, told reporters that her child turned seven on April 8 this year.
She confirmed she was unable to speak to her child and could only send a text message to the estranged husband's phone. She did not receive a response from Mohd Ridzuan.
“I think it's not so difficult for the IGP to instruct his police force to do so, and we really, really hope the baby comes back,” an emotional Indira said.
The date for the appeal hearing at the Federal Court has yet to be fixed.
Today's Federal Court panel was headed by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin. The other four judges are Tan Sri Abdull Hamid Embong, Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Tan Sri Ahmad Haji Maarop and Datuk Zaharah Ibrahim.
In the long drawn-out child custody battle, Indira won full custody of her three children in the Ipoh High Court in 2010, with the same civil court issuing a recovery order in her favour.
Mohd Ridzuan’s bid to appeal against the High Court’s custody order in favour of Indira was previously dismissed in both the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.
The Ipoh High Court had also previously nullified the Shariah court’s custody order in favour of Mohd Ridzuan and subsequently issued a mandamus order compelling the IGP to act.
The mandamus order came after the IGP said the police is caught between two conflicting jurisdictions of the civil court and Shariah court - with both courts granting child custody to different parents.
Last December, the Court of Appeal delivered a 2-1 decision dismissing the Ipoh High Court’s mandamus order to the IGP to enforce the arrest warrant and recovery order.