PUTRAJAYA: Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin is leading a five-man bench to hear the appeal by kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi, who is challenging the unilateral conversion of her three children by her former husband who is a Muslim convert.
Others in the panel are Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, Federal Court judges Abu Samah Nordin, Ramly Ali and Zaharah Ibrahim.
Although Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria had declined to enlarge the coram to seven or nine, the current bench is multi-racial and gender mixed.
The central issue of far reaching consequence in this case is whether the consent of one or both parents must be obtained to convert their minor children to Islam.
In December, the Court of Appeal’s majority ruling held that the validity of conversion of the children by Indira’s former husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah could only be determined by the shariah court.
In setting aside the ruling of the Ipoh High Court, justices Balia Yusof Wahi and Badariah Sahamid said the civil court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the conversion.
However, judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, in his dissenting judgment, said the conversion was purely an administrative matter and the civil court could inquire into the matter.
High Court judge Lee Swee Seng had held the conversion certificates of the children – Tevi Darsiny, Karan Dinish and Prasana Diksa – were null and void.
Tevi Darsiny, 19, and Karan Dinish, 18, are in Indira’s care while Prasana Diksa, now 8 is still with Riduan, whose original name was K Pathmanathan.
In 2009, Riduan snatched Prasana, then aged 11 months, before unilaterally converting the three children in their absence.
Indira subsequently won full custody of her children in the High Court on March 11, 2010.
Riduan has yet to return Prasana despite being found in contempt of court for failing to comply with the High Court ruling.
The whereabouts of Riduan and Prasana is still unknown.