She won on religion but when will she see her child?She stood against the government in court and the father of her own three children to win a landmark ruling yesterday.
Her battle was to stop him from changing their religion without her consent, a right that senior lawyers say is enshrined in the Federal Constitution, which says both parents of a minor must consent to any change.
Yesterday, she won. The High Court dismissed the three children’s conversion to Islam by one parent alone.
But despite her win, all she can think of now is her third and last child, whom she has not seen since her ex-husband took away the one-year-old baby in 2008. The High Court had in 2011 ruled that the mother was to have custody of her three children.
"It has been five years and I am longing to be reunited with my daughter," M. Indira Gandhi told The Malaysian Insider. "She was a baby. I do not know if she will recognise me now."
Speaking in Tamil by phone, she managed to contain her emotions as she said in a calm and composed voice, "My lawyers have filed contempt proceedings."
Her other two children, Tevi Darsiny, 14, and Karan Dinish, 15, are with her. They will remain Hindus because of their mother’s long battle in the courts.
Indira said the court ruling was a great relief to mothers like her who faced many obstacles and challenges when conversion took place.
"It is not a victory for me alone. I am glad the court has finally made a bold decision on the rights of a parent," she said.
She felt that her husband would definitely challenge the High Court ruling, but added, "I am prepared to go further."
Indira, now a kindergarten teacher, married K. Patmanathan 20 years ago, according to Hindu rites.
Then, 16 years into the marriage, on March 11, 2009, he converted to Islam and became Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah. The next month, he converted their three children to Islam at the Bahagian Dakwah, Jabatan Agama Islam, Ipoh, Perak. The conversion was 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, the one-year-old, with him.
Indira asked the High Court to quash the decision of the Syariah Court to give the father custody of the children and on July 28, 2010, she won that case despite strenuous objections from the Attorney-General. But despite her win, her husband has not returned the youngest daughter.
In the decision yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Lee Swee Seng said the conversions were not valid as they were unconstitutional because they were done without hearing from the mother or the children.
“This was unconstitutional because Articles 3, 5 and 11 of the Federal Constitution state that a mother has an equal right to raise her children to follow her own religion,” he said.
He also said the conversion was unlawful as the Perak Syariah law states that children must be present to utter the affirmation of faith. – July 26, 2013.