PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court today set aside the unilateral conversion of M Indira Gandhi’s three children to Islam after ruling that any conversion of non-Muslim children must get the consent of both parents.
In what has been described as a landmark ruling, the court also decreed that only the civil court would decide on such matters.
It also ruled that the word “parent” in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution should be read as “parents”.
That article says that the religion of a person under the age of 18 shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
The court’s ruling today put an end to the interfaith custody battle that followed after Indira’s ex-husband Muhammad Riduan Abdullah converted her three children without her knowledge in 2009.
Muhammad Riduan, formerly known as K Pathmanathan, converted to Islam on March 11, 2009.
He left the house three weeks later with their youngest child.
On April 2, 2009, he converted all three of their children to Islam without their knowledge and presence, and without Indira’s consent. He went to the Shariah Court several days later to obtain custody over them.
Indira’s eldest daughter, Tevi Darsiny, is now an adult at 21 while her brother, Karan Dinish, turned 19 last October. They are old enough to decide on their own faiths.
While awaiting a ruling in Indira’s case, Parliament last year passed an act that granted the rights to a spouse who had converted to Islam to file a petition for divorce, to dissolve his or her civil marriage under subsection 51 (1) of the Law Reform Act.
Minister in charge of parliamentary affairs Azalina Othman Said said the amendment was aimed at safeguarding the interests of and giving justice to both parties to resolve all issues arising from the dissolution of the marriage.
It proposed, among other things, that the consent of both parents, including the spouse who had embraced Islam, was needed to make their minor children Muslim.