Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Court wants expert views in contempt case in Indira Gandhi child custody issue


Published: Monday January 6, 2014 MYT 9:07:00 PM
Updated: Monday January 6, 2014 MYT 9:56:15 PM

Court wants expert views in contempt case in Indira Gandhi child custody issue

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi

 IPOH: The High Court advised parties involved in a contempt of court case over child custody to get the views of legal experts, including Islamic legal practitioners and the Bar Council.

Judicial Commissioner Lee Swee Seng said lawyers for both parties should include the views in their written submissions and set Feb 7 for both parties to exchange documents.

Kindergarten teacher M. Indira Ghandhi had obtained a court order to take action against her former husband, K. Patmanathan, for contempt of court for failing to hand over their youngest daughter, six-year-old Prasana Diksa (Ummu Habibah), to her.

Indira Gandhi was granted custody of her three children Tevi Darsiny, 17, Karan Dinish, 16, and Prasana Diksa last year.

However, her estranged husband, who also goes by the name of Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah following his conversion to Islam, had yet to return the youngest child.

Mohd Ridzuan had in 2009 converted the children to Islam without her consent, and she had made an application for a judicial review to quash the conversion certificates.

"I want both side to wrestle the issue. This is an important case in the making...this issue is very essential and crucial, and in the field of the Federal Constitution," said Lee.

He said they (legal experts) could also give their views on whether the child custody order by the Syariah High Court could be imposed on a child born from a marriage which was registered under the civil law.

He also wants views on whether the child custody order could be set aside if the non-Muslim father or mother obtained a similar order from the civil court.

Lee also set Feb 14 to hear the contempt of court case and ordered Muhammad Ridzuan to be at the court on that day with the daughter.

He said the case had to be solved amicably since the court had never handled such a case involving custody of children after a religious conversion by one of the parents.

Earlier, lawyer Hatim Musa, for Muhammad Ridzuan, in the case on the conversion to Islam of the three children, requested to be allowed to give his views on the contempt of court case.

 "The matter involves religious sensitivities and both parties should also take into account the views of the three children, who certainly will not want their father to be sent to jail.

 "The perspective from the children's side and that of the community should be taken into account because it also involves inter-religious issues," he added.

Lee then allowed an hour for the two parties to discuss before continuing with today's proceeding.

Indira Ghandhi is represented by lawyers Aston Paiva, M. Kulasegaran and NSelvam, while lawyers Asmuni Awi and Mohd Fitri Asmuni represented Muhammad Ridzuan.

The case involving the couple gained public attention, whereby in April 2009, the Cabinet decided that a child's religion must be in accordance with the common religion at the time of marriage between the parents in the event that one of them opts to convert.

In April 2009, Muhammad Ridzuan was granted custody of the three children, but on March 11, 2010, High Court judge Datuk Wan Afrah Wan Ibrahim ordered custody of the three children to be given to Indira Ghandi.

Last July 25, Lee, in a landmark decision, quashed the certificates of conversion of the three children who had been converted to Islam by their father in 2009.

He ruled that the certificates were null and void because they were unconstitutional and that in accordance with the Perak State Enactment, it was a statutory requirement for a child to be present before a certificate of conversion could be issued.

He also cited provisions under the Perak Syariah law, where the children must be present to utter the affirmation of faith (Dua Kalimah Syahadah). - Bernama

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