Indira’s children were never Muslims, says lawyer

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PETALING JAYA: Kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi’s three children were never Muslims as they did not recite the ‘dua kalimah syahadah” (pronouncement to embrace Islam) and the mother’s consent was never obtained, lawyer K Shanmuga said.

He said the Federal Court ruling on Jan 29 was clear the children were not Muslims as the five-man bench allowed Indira’s appeal to quash the conversion certificates issued by the Perak Registrar of Muallafs.

“The apex court set aside the majority Court of Appeal ruling as both requirements were not satisfied,” Shanmuga told FMT.

He was responding to a report in Malay Mail Online that quoted lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla as saying at a forum yesterday that the children were still Muslims.

Haniff said justice Zainun Ali, who delivered the unanimous judgment of the court, did not declare the children were non-Muslims. He added that the ruling only affected the validity of the children’s conversion certificates, which he said was merely administrative.

“If you read the judgment, Zainun stated that the challenge made by Indira was not regarding the children’s religious status. The challenge was in relation to whether the conversion certificates issued by the authority is valid or not, in accordance with the enactment,” Haniff was quoted as saying by the news portal.

Shanmuga, who was the lead counsel for Indira in the legal battle, said the three children were free to return to their original religion.

He said Indira’s two older children, Tevi Darshiny and Karan Dinesh, had already declared that they never uttered the “dua kalimah syahadah”.

“They had also professed to being Hindus, and are actively practising their faith.”

Shanmuga said their father, K Pathamanathan @ Muhammad Riduan Abdullah had abandoned his two children and did not teach them anything about Islam.

“Anyway, the children are not minors any more and they have decided on their religious status for themselves,” he said.

The couple’s youngest child, Prasana Diksa, is with Riduan, whose whereabouts is still unknown despite a statement by police that they were looking for the father and the daughter.

Shanmuga said it was unfortunate what had happened to Prasana and that it was also difficult to state the religious status of the child who was “abducted” by the father.

It is meaningless to talk about the religion of a very young child,” he said.

He added that he could not understand Haniff’s stand in stating that Tevi Darshiny and Karan Dinesh were Muslims.

In its landmark ruling, the Federal Court decreed that the civil courts have jurisdiction to hear cases when aggrieved parties question conversion to Islam.

Zainun said it was undisputed evidence that the children did not utter the two clauses of affirmation of faith and were not present before the registrar before the conversion certificates were issued.

“Issuance of the certificates, despite the non-fulfilment of the mandatory statutory requirement, is an act which the registrar had no power to do under the enactment,” she said.

In the judgment, Zainun said Indira was a non-Muslim and therefore had no locus standi before the Shariah Court.

Zainun also said that allowing a child to be converted with the consent of only one parent would give rise to practical conundrums.

“A purposive reading of Article 12 (4) of the Constitution that promotes the welfare of the child and is consistent with good sense, would require the consent of both parents (if both are living) for the conversion of a minor child,” she said.

Here is the key timeline of Indira’s tussle with Riduan over the conversion of their children.

  1. April 10, 1993 – Entered into civil marriage.
  2. March 11, 2009 – Riduan converts to Islam.
  3. March 31, 2009 – Riduan leaves matrimonial home in Ipoh with youngest daughter Prasana Diksa.
  4. April 2, 2009 – Riduan unilaterally converts his three children by using their birth certificates and without the consent and knowledge of Indira.
  5. July 25, 2013 – High Court revokes the conversion as Shariah Court has no jurisdiction.
  6. Dec 30, 2015 – Court of Appeal in 2-1 ruling holds Shariah Court has jurisdiction to determine the unilateral conversion as it is a religious and not a constitutional issue.
  7. May 19, 2016 – Federal Court gives go ahead for Indira to challenge the validity of the unilateral conversion of her children.
  8. Nov 30, 2016 – Federal Court reserves judgment after hearing Indira, Riduan, the Perak state religious authorities and Putrajaya.
  9. Jan 29, 2018- Federal Court allows Indira’s appeal to quash the conversion certificates and ruled that consent of both parents is needed to allow their minor children to embrace a new religion.

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