Hindu mother wins legal fight to also decide children’s faith after husband converts them to Islam
In a landmark decision, the Ipoh High court today quashed a man’s move to convert his three children to Islam, the latest episode in a combustible issue in Malaysia.
Judicial commissioner Lee Swee Seng said that while K. Patmanathan could convert, he did not have the right to deprive the children and their mothers of the freedom of religion.
He quashed the three certificates in converting the three minors, which were made without their mother M. Indira Gandhi’s knowledge.
Lee made this decision in allowing Patmanathan’s estranged wife, Indira’s judicial review application to quash the certificate issued by the Perak Religious Department.
The state registrar of conversions, the Perak Religious Department director, the state and federal governments, the education ministry and Patmanathan were named as respondents
Lee allowed the application with no order as to cost.
Indira, 38, a kindergarten teacher, filed a judicial review application in 2009.
Patmanathan, 44, had himself converted to Islam on March 2009 and is now known as Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah.
He then converted his three children on April 2 the same year.
That same month, the Syariah Court granted him custody of his three children, an order which Indira had challenged in the civil courts.
The High Court subsequently granted Indira an interim order for the custody of their children.
She had claimed that Patmanathan had stormed into her house, had used force against her and their children, Tevi Darsiny, Karan Dinish and Prasana Diksa, who were then aged 12, 11 and one, respectively, before leaving with their birth certificates.
Patmanathan then took away their youngest daughter and until now, the police have failed to locate their whereabouts.
In the decision yesterday, Lee said the certificates were null and void as it was unconstitutional because it was given without hearing the mother or children.
“This was unconstitutional because Articles 3, 5 and 11 of the Federal Constitution state that a mother has an equal right to raise her children to follow her own religion,” he said.
“This decision is no victory for anyone, but we have to learn to live in harmony," said the judicial commissioner.
He also said the conversion was unlawful as the Perak Syariah law states that children must be present to utter the affirmation of faith.
Lee also ruled that the conversion attempt was against the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Indira married Patmanathan in 1993 according to Hindu rites. They have been embroiled in a legal tussle over custody of the children for the past four years.
Today's decision comes after Putrajaya bowed to public pressure and was forced to withdraw the Administration of the religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013, at the last Parliament meeting to legalise conversion of minors to Islam unilaterally.
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