BERITA DAILY LETTER: From Sisters in Islam, via e-mail

Sisters in Islam (SIS) would like to extend our heartiest congratulation to Indira and her family for this landmark decision by the Federal Court. Finally, justice has been served for her and her family and soon she will be reunited with her daughter.

We have followed Indira and her case throughout her ordeal for almost a decade. Her dogged tenacity has resulted in a Federal Court decision which, not only serves her case but has given our country clarity and certainty in this issue of unilateral conversion of minors.

We applaud the unanimous decision of the Federal Court. The Federal Court has given a clear judgment on the jurisdictional uncertainties between the civil and syariah courts. They have upheld the accountability of government and state authorities – that in all their actions and decisions they are strictly bound by the four corners of the law.

Where they act outside their given functions and powers provided under the law, the civil courts have full jurisdiction to set aside such actions or decisions. Most importantly, the Federal Court stated that the civil courts have jurisdiction over constitutional issues, interpretation of laws and judicial reviews of administrative actions, and this is a function that cannot be abrogated or altered by parliament.

It is the cornerstone of a constitutional democracy. Malaysia is a country which abides by the rule of law, and judgments such as this show clearly that the rule of law prevails.

Accordingly, the Federal Court has ruled that the actions of the Registrar of Muallafs, in this case, acted beyond the powers conferred to this office under the law. The action, which was the conversion of Indira’s three children, is thus null and void.

Sisters In Islam with other women’s groups have recognised the injustices and trauma caused in cases of unilateral conversion of minors. We have sought to push through law reform since the late 1980s to ensure that further injustices such as this do not continue.

Unilateral conversion of a child by one parent without the express consent of the other is unconstitutional and divisive to the family institution. The lived reality of the people involved is years and years of emotional and psychological distress. The matter is now finally settled with the Federal Court judgment that both parents must consent to the conversion of a minor child.

We are especially happy to note that the court considered of utmost priority the best interest of the child and the role of the state is to safeguard the welfare of the child.

The decision signifies the end of a tumultuous and arduous journey of M Indira Gandhi and her family. We urge that the Royal Malaysian Police without any further delay, reunite Indira and her daughter whom she has not seen for the past nine years.

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