Poser over ‘parent’ in unilateral conversions
PUTRAJAYA: “Is the word parent singular or plural?”
This became a bone of contention in the Federal Court yesterday during the conversion case of a child belonging to a Hindu mother, M. Indira Ghandi ( pix).
The question was whether the mother or father of a child of a civil marriage must consent before a certificate of conversion to Islam can be issued in respect of the child.
The word “parent” appears in Article 12 (4) used in a singular form in the Federal Constitution, whereby it is stated that the religion of a person under the age of 18 years old shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
Indira wants to quash the conversion certificate issued to her eight-year-old daughter Prasana Diksa after her former husband unilaterally converted her to Islam, without Indira’s consent or knowledge.
Her legal team’s argument is that the word “parent” means both “mother” and “father” (in Islamic law) and that the consent of both mother and father should be obtained, prior to conversion.
During submission, Indira’s lawyer, Fahri Azzat, said the interpretation of the word “parent” as singular leads to absurdity, if the word “parent” meant either one of them.
Senior Federal Counsel Dr Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari said the meaning of the word “parent” is singular and not plural.
Arik said only the consent of one parent is needed for conversion and since the father had consented, the conversion of Indira’s child is valid and in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
He said the word “parent” in its singular form means a father “or” a mother and its plural form means “father and mother”.
He said according to dictionaries, the ordinary meaning of the word “parent” spelt without the letter “s” means a father or a mother.
He said the use of the word is distinguished in the provisions of the Federal Constitution.
Apart from the consent, lawyer K. Shanmuga said as long as both parents are alive, the right is intact and that Indira’s consent is necessary for conversion.