PUTRAJAYA: A Federal Court panel has made a variation to the High Court custody order on the two children who were awarded to their Hindu mother S Deepa.
“We have met them, interviewed them. Nabil (son) clearly stated he wants to be with his father while Sharmila (daughter) wants to be with her mother,” said Court of Appeal president Justice Raus Sharif.
“We have set aside the High Court custody order. Nabil follows his father while Sharmila follows her mother.”
For the children’s access, Justice Raus wants the couple to submit on how they want to meet their children. Before handing down the decision, the panel met Deepa and Irwan’s children in chambers.
Other judges in the panel included Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Justices Abdull Hamid Embong, Suriyadi Halim Omar and Azahar Mohamed.
Fahri Azzat represented Deepa while Haniff Khatri Abdulla acted for Izwan.
Senior federal counsels Suzana Atan and Shamsul Bolhassan represented the Attorney-General-Chambers (AGC), the intervenors.
The Federal Court was ruling on Wednesday that civil courts can hear interfaith custody cases between non-Muslims and Muslims.
Justice Raus said that the highest court in Malaysia has exclusive jurisdiction to hear custody cases even if one spouse converted to Islam under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act. “It’s about a civil marriage.”
“The Syariah Court has no jurisdiction to declare an annulment of a civil marriage and to give a custody order,” said Justice Raus, who read the judgement.
The respondent Deepa’s ex-husband, Izwan Abdullah, was formerly known as N Viran.
The couple were married in 2003 under civil law.
Izwan converted to Islam in November 2012, and also unilaterally converted his daughter, V Sharmila (Nurul Nabila), 11, and son, V Mitran (Nabil), eight, to Islam without their mother’s knowledge.
According to the court’s papers, Deepa only found out about her children’s conversion on 4 April 2013 when she went to the Pusat Dakwah Islamiah in Paroi, Negeri Sembilan for verification on the conversion.
Izwan obtained the custody of his two children from the Syariah Court on September 19, 2013 as well as an Order from the Syariah Court on May 15 that same year on dissolving the civil marriage between him and his wife.
Deepa was unaware of the proceeding in the Syariah Court.
On April 7, 2014, the Seremban High Court announced the dissolution of the couple’s marriage under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act.
Deepa also obtained custody of her two children.
Izwan snatched Mitran from Deepa, two days later.
Deepa then filed for a recovery order at the High Court to get the police to find her son. The High Court granted the order.
Izwan filed an appeal on the custody and recovery order to the Court of Appeal. Both appeals were dismissed by the appeals court in December 2014.