PUTRAJAYA, May 26 — The Court of Appeal heard today that it was academic for Tevi Darsiny, who was converted to Islam as a child without her knowledge, to remain part of the government’s appeal against the quashing of her conversion order as she is already 18.
Brought up in a Hindu family, Tevi Darsiny is the eldest of three children stuck in her estranged parents Muhammad Riduan Abdullah and M. Indira Gandhi’s high-profile battle for custody rights.
“She’s 18 now. I think it would be very unfair if she were made the subject of this appeal, especially when right now, she’s in a position to determine her religion for herself,” Fahri Azzat, one of Indira’s lawyers, told a Court of Appeal panel headed by Datuk Balia Yusof Haji Wahi.
All three children — then aged 12 years old, 11 years old, and 11 months old — were still minors when Muhammad Riduan converted them without their presence and without Indira’s knowledge.
In the appeal that was heard today, the Perak religious department is trying to restore the children’s Muslim convert status that was declared void by the civil courts.
Perak legal adviser Rohana Abd Malek argued that the relevant age should be the age when the three children were converted, insisting that the law relating to minors would still apply to Tevi Darsiny.
In 2013, the Ipoh High Court had quashed the April 2, 2009 unilateral conversion of the trio by Muhammad Riduan, who changed their religious status just six days before getting a custody order for all three in the Shariah court on April 8, 2009.
Tevi Darsiny and her brother now aged 17, Karan Dinish, are living with Indira in Ipoh, but the three have been separated from the youngest child Prasana Diksa that was snatched away by Muhammad Riduan about six years ago.
Rohana and Suhaila Haron represented the Perak Islamic Religious Department (JAIPk) director, Perak government, Registrar of converts; while Hatim Musa acted for Muhammad Riduan.
Senior Federal Counsels Shamsul Bolhassan and Khairul Fazli Kamaruddin acted for the federal government and the Education Ministry, which wanted to determine if the children should go for moral or Islamic studies. Aston Paiva and M.Kulasegaran also represented Indira today.
The decision on Tevi Darsiny’s status in the appeal will be decided on a later date by today’s three-man panel, which also includes Court of Appeal judges Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer and Dr Badariah Sahamid.
In the long drawn-out child custody battle, Indira subsequently won full custody of her three children in the Ipoh High Court on March 11, 2010, with the same civil court issuing a recovery order in her favour.
Muhammad Riduan has failed to challenge the custody order at the Federal Court, but has yet to return Prasana Diksa despite being found in contempt of court.