May 19 hearing of teacher’s bid for leave to appeal on children’s conversion

File picture shows M. Indira Gandhi at Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng
File picture shows M. Indira Gandhi at Court of Appeal, Putrajaya, December 30, 2015. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 26 — The Federal Court has set May 19 to hear an application by kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi for leave to appeal over the conversion of her three children to Islam.

The matter came up for case management today before Federal Court judge Datuk Zaharah Ibrahim and he fixed the hearing date.

Present at the case management proceedings today were Indira Gandhi’s counsel M. Kulasegaran and Aston Paiva; lawyer Hatim Musa for Indira Gandhi’s ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah; senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan for the Education Ministry and the Government of Malaysia and also Perak state legal advisor Datuk Rohana Malik.

In a media statement, Kulasegaran said they had informed the court that they would like to request certain judges including Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria and Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif to recuse themselves from hearing the leave-to-appeal application.

“We have also asked for a panel of judges who are multiracial, multi- religious as per the population of the country and, finally, it should be multi-gender based,” he said.

Indira Gandhi, 40, is seeking to appeal to the Federal Court against the Court of Appeal 2-1 majority verdict reinstating the conversion certificates of her three children.

Under the law, she must first obtain leave (permission) from the Federal Court before proceeding with her appeal to that court.

Eight legal questions have been framed for the Federal Court to consider.

Indira Gandhi succeeded in her bid at the Ipoh High Court to quash the children’s conversion certificates but the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court decision.

The Court of Appeal majority decision on Dec 30 last year ruled that the civil High Court did not have the jurisdiction to decide on the validity of children’s conversion which was under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court to determine.

That Court of Appeal had allowed the appeals by the director of the Perak Islamic Religious Department and two others, the Government of Malaysia, Education Ministry and the children’s father to set aside the High Court order that quashed the children’s conversion certificates.

The children were converted to Islam by their father, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah (formerly known as K. Pathmanathan), in April 2009 without Indira Gandhi’s consent after his conversion to Islam. The children were then aged 12, 11, and 11 months.

The three children, two girls and a boy, are now aged 18, 17 and seven.

The Ipoh Civil High Court nullified the Syariah Court order that gave custody of the children to Muhammad Riduan after it ruled that the Syariah High Court did not have the jurisdiction to grant the custody order when one party (the mother) was not a Muslim.

That court had allowed Indira Gandhi’s judicial review application for an order that the children’s certificates of conversion were null and void. — Bernama

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