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IndiraGandhi(left)attheCourtofAppealinPutrajaya,December30,2015.Filepic
KUALALUMPUR,Jan5TheCourtofAppeals21decisiononacaseofunilateral
conversionofminorstoIslamlastWednesdayhassparkedfreshdebateonthelegalavenuesof

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/indiragandhicaseasummaryofthemajorityjudgment 3/8
6/4/2017 IndiraGandhicase:Asummaryofthemajorityjudgment|Malaysia|MalayMailOnline
justiceavailabletononMuslims.

Torecap,twojudgesoutofthreeontheBenchruledagainstHindumotherM.IndiraGandhi,
sayingtheShariahcourtshavesolejurisdictiontodecidethereligiousstatusofherthree
childrenunilaterallyconvertedtoIslambytheirmuallaffather.

Heresanutshellversionofthe34pagemajorityjudgmentsightedbyMalayMailOnline:

Thefacts:K.Pathmanathan,aHindu,embracedIslamonMarch11,2009,andconvertedall
threechildrenonApril2thatsameyearfromhis1993civilmarriagetoIndirawithouther
knowledgeandconsent,andtheirabsence.Heobtainedtemporarycustodyorderandpermanent
custodyorderfromtheShariahcourtforallthreeonApril8andonSeptember29.

Thepartiesinvolved:AppealingagainstIndiras2013IpohHighCourtvictorywherethe
conversioncertificatesofthethreeminorsweredeclarednullandvoidaresixpartiesthe
PerakIslamicReligiousDepartment(JAIPk)director,theRegistrarofMuallaf,thePerakstate
government,theEducationMinistry,thegovernmentofMalaysiaandPathmanathan.

WhattheCourtofAppealpanelsmajorityjudgmentwrittenbyJusticeDatukBaliaYusof
HjWahiandsupportedbyDatukDrBadariahSahamidsaid:

NoordersmadeontheconversionofeldestchildTeviDarsiny(aged12whenthelegal
challengefirststartedin2009),asshehasnowturned18andbecomeanadultandhasherown
Share righttodecideherreligion.

DoesthecivilHighCourthavejurisdictiontodealwithconversiontoIslam(Indira
lostonthisgroundalone):

Usingthesubjectmatterapproach,itisbeyonddoubtthattheissueofwhetherapersonis
MuslimornotfallsundertheShariahCourtsexclusivejurisdiction.Thedeterminationofthe
validityoftheconversionofanypersontothereligionofIslamisstrictlyareligiousissueandit
fallswithintheexclusivejurisdictionoftheShariahCourt.

CitesFederalCourts2014judgmentin[HajiRaimib.AbdullahvSitiHasnahVangaramabt.
Abdullah]whichalsoinvolvedaminorsconversiontoIslam,whereitheldthattheShariah

CourthasexclusivejurisdictionbothtodecidewhetherapersonprofessesIslamornotandto
decidethevalidityoftheconversion.

AplainreadingofaPeraklawgivesShariahcourtstheexclusivejurisdictiontodeclarea
Muslimpersonsstatus,rulesthattheIpohHighCourtsdeclarationthatthethreechildrens
conversionisnullandvoidhadtransgressedtheseprovisions.

CitesSection50(3)(b)(x)and(xi)ofAdministrationofReligionofIslam(Perak)Enactment
2004thatwhenputtogetherstates:TheShariahHighCourtshallinitsciviljurisdiction,hear
anddetermineallactionsandproceedingsofallthepartiestotheactionsorproceedingsare
Muslimsandtheactionsandproceedingsrelateto:

adeclarationthatapersonisnolongeraMuslimadeclarationthatadeceasedpersonwasa
Muslimorotherwiseatthetimeofhisdeath.

SaystheHighCourtjudgehaderredinusingtheremedyapproachtodecideonthe
constitutionalityofconversionprocessandinterpretthefundamentallibertiesprovisionsinthe
FederalConstitution,insteadofusingthesubjectmatterapproach.

AllowingtheHighCourttoreviewmatterswithinexclusivepowersofShariahCourt
breachestheFederalConstitutionsArticle121andisinconsistentwithjudicialreview
principles

TheCourtofAppealsaidthepivotalissueisnotwhetherornottheMajlisAgamaIslam
(Islamicreligiouscouncil)hasjurisdiction,butwhetherHighCourthasjurisdiction,further
sayingthatthesubjectmatterofconversiontoIslaminIndirascaseisclearlyoutsidethelatters
legalcompetency.

ImpliesthatthefactthatthenonMuslimIndirawouldhavenoremedyintheShariahcourts
wouldnotbyitselfgivethecivilcourtsjurisdiction:Inaddition,thelackofremedyforthe
RespondentcannotipsofactoconferjurisdictionontheHighCourt.

Sideissues:

CertificatesofconversiontoIslam

Bydeclaringthethreechildrenscertificatesofconversionsnullandvoidduetofailureto
complywithSection96andSection106ofthePerakenactment,theIpohHighCourt
overlookedSection101whichstatesthecertificatesasconclusiveproofofthefactsstatedthere.
CitesCourtofAppeals2007judgmentin[SaravananThangatorayvSubashiniRajasingam&
AnotherAppeal],whichdealtwithasimilarprovisioninaSelangorlaw.

Inourview,intheabsenceofanyevidencetothecontraryandintheabsenceofany
challengetothesaidcertificateswhichmustbedoneortakenintheShariahCourt,thesaid

certificatesremaingood.

CertificatewhichstatesconversionashavingbeenrecordedinRegisterofMuallafsindicates
thatconversionmusthavebeendonetosatisfactionoftheRegistrar,withtheCourtofAppeal
sayingthatthestatedvalidityoftherecordedconversionshouldbeacceptedbythecivilcourt:
AssuchweareoftheviewthattheHighCourthastoacceptthefactsstatedthereinanditis
beyondthepowersofthelearnedJCtoquestionthesame.

HighCourthasnobusinesstoconsiderwhethertheconversionrequirementsunderSection
96andSection106wereviolated,asithasnopowerstogointoissueofthevalidityof

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/indiragandhicaseasummaryofthemajorityjudgment 4/8
6/4/2017 IndiraGandhicase:Asummaryofthemajorityjudgment|Malaysia|MalayMailOnline
conversiontoIslamthatfallswithintheexclusivejurisdictionoftheShariahcourts.

Singleparent'srighttoconvertchildwithoutconsentofwife

HighCourtruledthatthenonMuslimIndirasconstitutionalrightsunderArticle11ofthe
FederalConstitutionwouldbedeprivedasshewouldnotbeabletoteachherchildrenthetenets
ofherfaith,butCourtofAppealsaidthatcannotbesoandsaidtheHighCourterredin
declaringconversionillegalbasedonthispoint.

HighCourtranfoulofFederalCourtsjudgmentin[Subashini],wherethelatterruledthat
Article12(4)(onthedecisionofaminorsreligionbyaparentorguardian)doesnotgivethe
rightonchoiceofreligionofchildrenbelow18inbothparents.

TheexerciseoftherightofoneparentunderArticle12(4)cannotandshallnotbetakento
meanadeprivationofanotherparent'srighttoprofessandpracticehisorherreligionandto
propagateitunderArticle11(1)oftheFederalConstitution.

DidconversionofIndira'sthreechildrenviolateinternationalnormsand
conventions?

HighCourtsaidthepreferredinterpretationofparentsinArticle12(4)istheonethatbest
promotescommitmenttointernationalnormsandenhancebasichumanrights,inanodtothe
UniversalDeclarationofHumanRights(UDHR),theConventiononRightsoftheChild(CRC)
Share andtheConventionontheEliminationofAllFormsofDiscriminationAgainstWomen
(CEDAW).

InternationaltreatiesdonotformpartofMalaysianlawunlessthoseprovisionshavebeen
incorporatedbyParliamentintolocallaws,citesa2011judgmentwheretheFederalCourtsaid
thatinternationalnormsshouldnotbeusedasaguidetointerprettheFederalConstitution.

Citesa1981judgmentwhereUDHRwassaidtobemerelyastatementofprinciplesthatis
notlegallybindingasitisnotpartofMalaysianlawsanda2014judgmentwheretheCourtof
AppealsaidtheCEDAWhasnoforceoflawinMalaysiaasithasnotbeenmadepartoflocal
laws.

AlthoughtheFederalConstitutionisnottobeinterpretedinanarrowway,theCourtof
AppealsaiditisnotfreetostretchorpervertthelanguageoftheConstitutionintheinterestof
anylegalorconstitutionaltheory,andalsosaiditisnotatribunaltodecideifalocallawgoes
againstgeneralacknowledgedprinciplesofinternationallaw.Forus,theFederalConstitution
issupremeandwearedutyboundtogiveeffecttoitsterms.

HighCourtsapproachofstickingcloselytothestandardofinternationalnormsin
interpretingtheFederalConstitutionisnotintandemwiththeacceptedprinciplesof
constitutionalinterpretation.

Conclusion:

AppealofsixpartiesagainstIndiraallowed.HighCourtsorderinfavourofIndirasetaside,
withnoordersastocost.

ToreadMalayMailOnlineshighlightsofthedissentingCourtofAppealjudgeDatukDr
HamidSultanAbuBackersjudgment,gotothislink.

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