| Press Statement | Putrajaya, Malaysia | 3 Sept 2016 | Asia Samachar |
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) welcomes the Federal Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s statement today (2 Sept 2016 – Malaymail Online) that the proposed reforms will essentially see the cabinet abiding by its April, 2009 decision which requires both Parents’ consent before a child of civil marriage can be converted to another religion.
The MCCBCHST’s consistent stand has been that to ensure justice and to abide by the constitution, there can be no unilateral conversion of minors, that is, both parties to the marriage must consent before a minor can be converted to another religion.
This is the first time since 2009, that a Cabinet Minister has stated that the Cabinet Decision of April, 2009 will be adhered to. The MCCBCHST lawyers had attended meetings with the AG Chambers in 2010 and later attended meetings in 2012 and 2014, where the proposed amendments still allowed for conversion of a minor of a marriage by a single parent. Thus, there was a deadlock as MCCBCHST could not agree to such unilateral conversion being allowed.
Both Indira Gandhi’s and Deepa’s cases, fought through the courts for the last 7 years, in the face of tremendous personal anguish, had won first major battle in Deepa’s case, where a 5 member Bench had delivered judgement on 10-01-2016 stating that “ the Civil Court had the exclusive jurisdiction to grant decrees of divorce of a civil marriage under the LRA (Marriage & Divorce), 1976 and to make all other ancillary orders including custody care and access of the child born out of that marriage and all other matters ancillary thereto ”. The Federal Court had further stated it would be an abuse of the process for the spouse who has converted to Islam to file for dissolution and for custody of the children in the Syariah Courts.
With DECISIVE decision in Deepa’s case above, the only thorny issue left was whether a single parent could convert a child of marriage without the other parent’s consent.
This issue of unilateral conversion is directly up in Indira Ghandi’s appeal to the Federal Court which will be heard on 14 & 15 November 2016.
Now, with the announcement by the Federal Minister that the Cabinet would abide by its April, 2009 decision where unilateral conversions were not allowed, it appears then that Indira Ghandi’s appeal on this case may become Academic, if indeed what the Minister has said is passed as law.
The MCCBCHST again welcomes the Federal Minister’s statement regarding the requirement of consent of both parents before a child of marriage could be converted. This is a just solution. Otherwise, as the MCCBCHST, has warned all along that the problem will persist even for the next 100 years, if a single parent was allowed to convert a child of marriage.
The MCCBCHST is confident that if unilateral conversion, which has been the root-cause of problem in the past, is done away with then cases like Indira Ghandi & Deepa will be resolved in the future.
Indira Ghandi & Deepa’s cases:
Whatever course is taken to resolve conflict arising from unilateral conversion, either through Cabinet Sanctioned Bill or through success in Indira Ghandi’s coming appeal in November, 2016, both Indira Ghandi and Deepa deserve to be recognised as Icons of Motherhood for having stood steadfast in their struggle to ensure that other women will not face the same anguish they faced. History must record their struggle to fight for the rights of a mother and a non-converting spouse.
Vice President, Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Joint Chairman, MCCBCHST Legal Panel
[This press statement is dated 2 Sept 2016. Jagir is also the current president of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council, MGC. In February 2016, the Malaysian Prime Minister appointed him to continue serving on the main governing body of the Committee for Interfaith Promotion of Understanding and Religious Harmony]
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