The Sun (Malaysia)
Appeals Court: MACC rule unconstitutional removed
KUALA LUMPUR: The Law Reform ( Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016 will be tabled today – without a clause that would in effect ban unilateral conversions of minors should a parent decide to convert to Islam.
The new bill will not have Clause 88A which allows a child to remain in his or her original religion despite the conversion of a parent to Islam.
The original bill with the clause, which was to have been tabled, was withdrawn yesterday by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
“I will table a f resh bill on Tuesday. The government has amended the bill to be tabled for first reading and will go for debates in this meeting with the removal of Clause 8 8 A, ” s he t ol d t heSun after withdrawing the earlier bill.
Azalina said the government’s decision to remove the clause was due to four court decisions which are now in conflict with it.
The four court decisions – three from the Federal Court and one Court of Appeal – bind the interpretation of “parent” as singular in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.
Article 12(4) states that the religion
of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.
“The amendment is made so that there is no conflict in any of the provisions of the Federal Constitution,” Azalina said yesterday.
“It is also in line with the principle of stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by things decided”) doctrine where there are binding court decisions on the interpretation of Clause (4) Article 12 (of the Constitution).”
Azalina urged all parties to accept the move positively to preserve the unity and harmony of the multi-religious and racial society.
“I hope all parties will support the bill and not politicise it,” she said.
The government’s initial move to amend the Act follows two high-profile cases of unilateral conversions, which had captured headlines in recent years and stirred religious tensions.
One was that of hairdresser S. Deepa, whose family was torn apart when on Feb 10 last year, the Federal Court granted her custody of her 11-year-old daughter Sharmila, while her ex-husband N. Viran, now known as Izwan Abdullah, got custody of their eight-year-old son Mithran, now called Nabil.
Another was the case of kindergarten teacher Indira Gandhi, whose three children Tevi Darsiny, Karan Dinish and Prasana Diksa, were converted to Islam without her knowledge by her former Hindu husband K. Pathmanathan, now known as Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.
In an immediate reaction, MIC chairman Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam said there are other elements in the bill that will help resolve other problems.
“For the first step, we thought we will go forward with passing all the other elements of the bill,” he said.
“As for this clause, we will see how we can resolve it in a way which will be legally acceptable to all parties,” he added.