Monday, July 29, 2013

Indira’s ex-husband risks Islamic conversion appeal unless he returns daughter

Indira’s ex-husband risks Islamic conversion appeal unless he returns daughter

July 29, 2013
Malaysian Insider
Latest Update: July 29, 2013 07:12 am
Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah may not have his day in the Court of Appeal unless he surrenders his five-year-old daughter to ex-wife M. Indira Gandhi, who last week won a landmark  judgment to jointly determine her children's faith

Kindergarten teacher Indira had obtained custody of their three children, including the daughter, but the Muslim convert has been keeping the daughter throughout their four-year battle over the children's faith.

Lawyer Benjamin Dawson said Ridzuan's lawyers could not make a submission to reverse the High Court decision due to a Federal Court ruling, although there are reports that they will file an appeal soon.

"The principle is that a person in contempt of court will not be heard unless the contempt is purged," Dawson told The Malaysian Insider.

The Bahasa daily Utusan Malaysia reported on Saturday that Ridzuan would file an appeal within 10 days to set aside a High Court ruling that quashed the conversion of his three children to Islam.

Dawson, who appeared as counsel in the celebrated Lina Joy conversion case, said Ridzuan had every right to file a notice of appeal against last Thursday's ruling.

"Beyond that, he has to contend with the Federal Court ruling, where S. Syamala who was not allowed to pursue her appeal because she had disobeyed a High Court ruling," he said.

Dawson said if Ridzuan was excluded, the appeal may have a bearing on whether the religion the children should profess be a decision between the couple, not the religious authorities.

A retired judge agreed with Dawson on Ridzuan's position following the Federal Court ruling.

"But nothing stops other parties in the action, including the Perak religious authorities to challenge the High Court decision as it involved constitutional and administrative issues," said the former judge, who did not want to be named.

In November 2010, a  five-man bench led by then chief justice Tun Zaki Azmi had unanimously dismissed Syamala's bid to raise her two young children in the religion they grew up in after being converted to Islam by her estranged Hindu-turned-Muslim husband.

Zaki had ruled that Syamala must return to the country if she wants the court's protection.

She had fled the country with her two sons in 2004 and their whereabouts were unknown.

Zaki noted that Syamala had gained an unfair advantage over her husband when she breached a court order allowing the father the right to visit the two children.

The Federal Court said it cannot adopt a "fugitive doctrine of heads I win, tails you lose" in deciding the basic rights for either parent.

The apex court noted that her estranged husband, anaesthetist Dr Muhammad Ridwan Mogarajah (alias Jeyaganesh C. Mogarajah), also had rights as the father but had been denied access to his children since 2004.

Both parents were in a bitter fight to gain custody of their sons,Saktiwaran and Theivaswaran, then aged 11 and nine respectively in 2010, and to be allowed to raise them in their respective religions.

Last Thursday, Judicial Commissioner Lee Swee Seng quashed three certificates to convert the three minors, Tevi Darsiny, 16, Karan Dinish, 15, and Prasana Diksa, 5, to Islam which were made without Indira's  knowledge.

Lee said the certificates were null and void as it was unconstitutional because it was given without hearing the mother or the children.

He also said the conversion was unlawful as the Perak Syariah law states that children must be present to utter the affirmation of faith.

Lee had also ruled that the conversion attempt was against the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Indira married K. Patmanathan 20 years ago, according to Hindu rites.

Sixteen years into the marriage, on March 11, 2009, he converted to Islam.

The next month, he converted their three children to Islam without the knowledge of his wife.

That same month, the Syariah Court granted him custody of his three children.

The couple separated and the husband took the youngest child, then a-year-old, with him.

Indira applied to the High Court to quash the Syariah Court ruling that gave the father custody of the three children.

However, the husband, whose whereabouts are unknown, did not hand over the child to Indira. - July 29, 2013

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