Crime & Courts

Appeal's Court allows Loh to reverse children's unilateral conversion to Islam [NSTTV]

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has declared the unilateral conversion of Loh Siew Hong's three children to Islam by her former husband as invalid.

The ruling follows Loh's successful appeal challenging the conversion that occurred in Perlis five years ago.

Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, who led a three-member panel in an unanimous decision, said the lower court erred and misdirected itself when handing down the ruling.

She said the High Court failed to address two pertinent issues in the judicial review proceedings which are — whether unilateral conversion is lawful and whether Section 117b of the Perlis Enactment Four is unconstitutional as it contradicts Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.

"The failure of the High Court judge to answer these two issues is a clear direction that is tantamount to error of law.

"On the issue of unilateral conversion, we are bound by the decision in Indira Gandhi which held that consent of both parents must be obtained before minor children can be converted to other religion.

"In this case, it is not disputed that the appellant mother did not consent to the three children's conversion to Islam.

"In respect of the issue, on whether there is a prescription of the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Federal Constitution deemed to be the authoritative text, we are of the opinion there is no clear evidence that Yang di-Pertuan Agong had prescribed the Bahasa Malaysia Federal Constitution as the authoritative text.

"Hence, we are still following the English version to interpret Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution.

"Thus, we are bound by the interpretation of Article 12(4) in the Indira Gandhi case meaning the word 'parent' in Article 12(4) means both parents.

"Therefore, Section 117b of Enactment Four is unconstitutional," she said.

Other members of the bench were Datuk Hashim Hamzah and Datuk Azhahari Kamal Ramli.

Loh sought to contest the lower court's decision, which previously stated that there was no evidence indicating that the three children had ceased practicing Islam while under her care.

Last year, on May 11, High Court judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said there was no evidence that the three children had reverted to the Hindu religion.

Loh's three children were converted to Islam by her ex-husband without her consent in 2019, and she is contesting the legality of it.

She aims to secure a declaration affirming her children's Hindu status and arguing that they were not legally capable of adopting Islam without her authorisation.

Additionally, she seeks to overturn the conversion registration dated July 7, 2020, issued by the registrar.

Loh had named the Registrar of Mualaf, Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis, besides Perlis state mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government as respondents.

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