PETALING JAYA: Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram has lauded the “brilliant” judgment by the apex court earlier today that held that both parents must consent to the religious conversion of minor children.
Sri Ram said Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin should also be congratulated for reminding judges that the law is neutral.
“Suffian said the same thing a long time ago. Along the way some forgot those wise words. Zulkefli’s reminder is timely,” he said, referring to Mohamed Suffian Hashim, who served as Lord President of the Federal Court from 1974 to 1982.
“It (this ruling) is now the sheet anchor for all future constitutional cases. “It is a milestone in our constitutional law,” he said.
Sri Ram added that all concerned should now understand the meaning of judicial independence.
In its landmark ruling, the Federal Court decreed that the civil courts have jurisdiction to hear cases when aggrieved parties question conversion to Islam.
This was one of the key pronouncements made as the apex court allowed kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi’s appeal over the conversion of her three children by her ex-husband, K Pathamanathan @ Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, in 2009.
Others in the bench were Richard Malanjun, Zainun Ali, Abu Samah Nordin and Ramly Ali.
Following this unanimous ruling, which was delivered by Zainun, the certificates of conversion issued by the Perak Registrar of Muallafs on Tevi Darshiny, Karan Dinesh and Prasana Diksa are now null and void.
Zulkefli, in his supplementary ruling, remarked that the judges were not swayed by their religious beliefs.
Quoting a passage from former Lord President Suffian, Zulkefli said judges should not be identified by their race and religion, especially when upholding the rights of minority communities.
“We strictly follow case laws and statutes in upholding the rule of law,” he said.
Meanwhile, activist Siti Kasim said some of the lawyers, including her were tearing as Zainun read the judgment.
“You must understand the significance of this judgment. It’s not only good news for Indira but the impact on all of us Malays with regards to the encroachment on our personal liberties that are protected under our Constitution,” she said in her Facebook posting.
Siti said phrases “precepts of Islam” have been a bane to many cases that touched on issues of the administration of Islam when matters were taken to court.
“The religious authorities vis-a-vis government viewed any mention of Islam in a case must be heard in the Syariah Court. This judgment has now made it crystal clear on this position,” Siti said.
She was also seen consoling Indira as Zainun was pronouncing the verdict in layman’s terms.
Siti said Article 121 (1A) must be interpreted against the background of the basic principles and other provisions in the Constitution.
“This is such an important decision. My faith is restored in our judiciary. Thank you Judges. Thank you,” she said.