Apex court annuls unilateral conversion of Indira Gandhi’s kids

M. Indira Gandhi (left) speaks to reporters during a press conference after the Federal Court annulled the unilateral conversion of her three children in Putrajaya January 29, 2018. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
M. Indira Gandhi (left) speaks to reporters during a press conference after the Federal Court annulled the unilateral conversion of her three children in Putrajaya January 29, 2018. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 29 — The unilateral conversion of Hindu mother M. Indira Gandhi’s three children was unanimously voided and set aside by the Federal Court today, ending her nine-year ordeal.

The five-member panel led by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said the conversion of the children, made unilaterally by her Muslim convert ex-husband in 2009, must be “set aside”.

The court ruled that the Registrar of Muallafs (Muslim converts) had acted beyond the “limits of power” in registering the children as Muslims when conditions for their conversion were not fully met.

The 99-page judgment was read out in summary by Justice Tan Sri Zainun Ali, after the Federal Court deliberated over Indira’s application for 14 months.

Today’s decision by the country’s highest court sets aside the Court of Appeal ruling in 2015, which had upheld the conversion of Indira’s children, and follows the High Court that in 2013 allowed her application to set aside their conversion.

Two of her children, Karan Dinish and Tevi Darsiny, are both now adults aged 19 and 20, respectively.

“Since the children were not present (during the conversion), and the conditions were not fulfilled, the registrar has no power to register them as Muslims,” Zainun said.

The registrar misconstrued the extent of his authority in the matter, she added.

As such, she said the registrar had “no justification” to issue a certificate of conversion for the children.

“The conversion is null and void and must be set aside,” she said.

Indira’s ex-husband, Mohd Riduan Abdullah, formerly K. Pathmanathan prior to embracing Islam, converted the three children on his own in 2009, three weeks after his own conversion.

Tevi and Karan both have stayed with their mother since the conversion, but the couple’s youngest, Prasana Diksa, was abducted by the father when she was 11 months old and has remained with him since.

Indira previously secured a court order compelling the police to find Prasana and return the child to her, which the police said it could not to execute after citing jurisdictional conflicts between the civil and Shariah courts.

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