Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Apex court denies Mais application, decision on kids’ conversion to Islam remains

A three-man bench says the High Court and Court of Appeal were right to follow the Federal Court decision in the Indira Gandhi case.

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The conversion of five children to Islam by their Muslim-convert father in 2018 without the consent of their non-Muslim mother remains invalid with the Federal Court dismissing the application by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and its Registrar of Muallaf for leave to appeal to reinstate their conversion.

Without the leave, the decision made by the Court of Appeal and the High Court in nullifying the children’s conversion to Islam stands.

In a unanimous decision, a three-man bench led by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said the issues raised by lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who acted for Mais and the Registrar of Muallaf had been settled by the decision of the Federal Court in the M Indira Gandhi conversion case.

“The courts were therefore correct in following the Federal Court’s decision in Indira Gandhi’s case,” said Tengku Maimun who presided with Federal Court judges Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.

In Indira Gandhi’s case in 2018, the Federal Court ruled that the consent of both the father and mother were required to change the children’s religion to Islam.

Tengku Maimun said the provisions of Section 117 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (State of Selangor) Enactment 2003 clearly state that a person who is not a Muslim may convert to the religion of Islam if he is of sound mind and has attained the age of 18 years, or if he has not attained the age of 18, the mother and father must consent to the conversion.

“The application (by Mais and Registrar of Muallaf) does not meet the threshold requirement of Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 for leave to be granted,” she added.

She also ordered Mais and Registrar of Muallaf to pay costs of RM30,000.

Mais and the Registrar of Muallaf had sought leave to appeal after the 33-year-old mother of the children filed a judicial review application, among others seeking court orders to revoke the registration and declaration of the children’s conversion to Islam.

She named her former husband, the chairman of Mais, the Registrar of Muallaf, the director-general of the education ministry and the government of Malaysia as defendants.

On Nov 1, 2018, the father himself converted to Islam and on the same day had his five children converted to Islam as well without their mother’s consent.

On the day of conversion, the eldest child was 10, while the other children were nine, six, five and three.

The mother only found out about her children becoming Muslims after receiving a letter from Mais in 2019 confirming the registration of conversion of the children to Islam.

In allowing the mother’s judicial review, High Court judge Tun Abd Majid Tun Hamzah held that the Federal Court’s decision in the Indira Gandhi case was binding on the lower courts and that the Selangor enactment clearly states that both father and mother must consent to their children’s conversion.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court last year.

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