Law minister: Unilateral conversion clause unnecessary with Indira Gandhi case

The landmark January 29 Federal Court ruling in Indira Gandhi’s case declared that unilateral conversions of minors to Islam are unlawful. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
The landmark January 29 Federal Court ruling in Indira Gandhi’s case declared that unilateral conversions of minors to Islam are unlawful. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — The government need not reintroduce the controversial Section 88A of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

The de facto law minister said the Federal Court ruling in favour of Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi earlier this year has set a legal precedent and meant that a parent can no longer unilaterally change the religion of their underaged children without consulting the other.

“There is no longer a need to include Section 88A in LRA,” Liew said in a written parliamentary reply to Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

“In the latest Federal Court case, namely Indira Gandhi vs the Perak Islamic Affairs Department and others, the court interpreted ‘parent’ in Article 12 (4) of the Federal Constitution as both parents.

“The interpretation can resolve the issue of unilateral conversion by one parent who converts to Islam,” Liew added.

The Barisan Nasional government dropped Section 88A when it tabled amendments to the LRA in August last year. It had been included in an earlier draft.

The landmark January 29 Federal Court ruling in Indira Gandhi’s case declared that unilateral conversions of minors to Islam are unlawful.

However, some groups fear that the apex court ruling is insufficient to address loopholes and have continued to push for the inclusion of legislation that clearly bans unilateral conversion.