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.

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