Dangerous precedent, MP says of Federal Court custody ruling in Deepa case

The Federal Court had divided the custody of Mithran and his sister, Sharmila, handing the son to his Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah (pic) and the daughter to Deepa, a Hindu. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The Federal Court had divided the custody of Mithran and his sister, Sharmila, handing the son to his Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah (pic) and the daughter to Deepa, a Hindu. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 ― The Federal Court’s decision to grant custody of S. Deepa’s son who was snatched away by his father will encourage other parents in similar disputes to take the same extra-legal actions, said DAP MP Teo Nie Ching.

The Kulai MP also said it was wrong for the Federal Court to set aside the decision by the Seremban High Court, which had previously given Deepa custody of her child, Mithran.

“So from now onwards, a parent who has lost the custody battle in court can run away with the child and hide a few years, then come to court and file an application to vary the earlier court order by saying the child has already settled down with him or her.

“This is a very dangerous precedent,” Teo said in a press statement.

Noting that the decision to give custody of Mithran to Deepa's ex-husband, Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah, was made following a panel's interview with the children in chambers, Teo said maintaining a status quo might on the decision would not be the best of interest for the child.

“English authorities have tackled this issue in length. A parent that would do illegal or immoral means to achieve an objective would not set a good example or role model to the children.

“Hence, it is not in the welfare of the children to stay with him or her,” she said.

Wanita MCA yesterday had suggested that granting custody to Izwan was unwise as the son may have been coerced into choosing the father in the years the Muslim convert had kept him after snatching Mithran from Deepa.

Teo, instead, called for Izwan to be held for contempt of court for failing to obey to the Seremban High Court's order in 2014 and keeping Mithran since then.

“He should not be rewarded for abducting Mithran from Deepa (as) giving the custody of an eight-year-old son, Mithran (Nabi) to Izwan is equal to a “reward” for his illegal and immoral act,” she said.

Deepa had previously won custody of her two children in the civil High Court, but the police did not act on the civil court’s order to return the son Mithran snatched away by Izwan, due to a custody order in his favour by the Shariah courts.

The Federal Court on Wednesday divided the custody of Mithran and his sister, Sharmila, after interviewing them, handing the son to his Muslim convert father and the daughter to Deepa, a Hindu.

The court also ruled that matters involving custody or divorce in civil marriages should only be handled by the civil courts and not the Shariah system, unless both husband and wife are Muslims.

The Federal Court did not say whether the civil courts or the Shariah courts would have the power to decide on the religious status of children who were unilaterally converted to Islam.

Deepa subsequently pleaded for the country’s laws to be changed to spare other single mothers from her traumatic experience of being separated from her son, urging the authorities to ensure her case will be “the last case in Malaysia”.

Last December 30, the Court of Appeal in a 2-1 decision reversed a lower court’s order quashing the unilateral conversion of Indira’s three children to Islam, stating that only the Shariah courts have the jurisdiction to determine whether a person is a Muslim.

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