KUALA LUMPUR: Single mother Loh Siew Hong’s appeal to set aside a High Court ruling that her children remained Muslims despite being unilaterally converted by their father will be heard in open court next month.
Her lawyer, A Srimurugan, said the Court of Appeal has allowed an application made earlier this week for a public hearing of the case after considering all factors raised in a letter.
The appeal, which will be heard on Oct 19, was initially slated to be conducted online.
The lawyer said the case was one of public interest and that many lawyers from both sides would be making submissions by reference to a huge body of case law.
“Many non-governmental organisations will also be applying to the court to hold watching briefs,” he said.
Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who will be appearing for the registrar of converts (Mualaf), the religious and Malay customs council of Perlis (MAIPs), state mufti Asri Zainul Abidin and the state government, all respondents to the appeal, confirmed the matter.
He said he had no objection to the request for an open hearing.
On May 11, Justice Wan Farid Wan Salleh dismissed Loh’s judicial review application, saying there was no evidence the three children stopped professing Islam after she had gained custody of them, giving rise to the present appeal.
In his ruling, Wan Farid said there was no dispute that certificates of conversion were issued in respect of the children.
He also said the certificates were issued after the Perlis state registrar of converts was satisfied that the legal requirements of Section 107(1) of a 2006 Perlis state enactment had been adhered to and that the children had professed the Syahadah proclamation voluntarily.
On March 25 last year, Loh filed the suit seeking a declaration that a provision in the state enactment that allows a parent to unilaterally convert minor children was unconstitutional.
She had sought a declaration that her twin 15-year-old daughters, and son, aged 11, were still Hindus.
Loh said her children were legally incapable of embracing Islam without her consent as they were minors.
Loh, a Buddhist, contends that her former husband, Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, did not have the legal capacity to allow the registrar of converts to register their children as converts without her consent.
She also asked for a certiorari order to quash the registration of the children’s conversion into the Islamic faith by the registrar on July 7, 2020.
On Feb 21 last year, then High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah allowed a habeas corpus application filed by Loh after she had failed to regain custody of her three children from preacher Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah.
On March 31, 2020, another High Court decision gave her custody, care and control of her three children.
Loh claimed she later came to know that her children had been placed under Nazirah’s care and alleged that Nazirah refused to let her meet them.