Crime & Courts

Leave my family alone, Loh tells MAIPs

PUTRAJAYA: Single mother Loh Siew Hong wants the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MAIPs) to 'leave her family alone' as they had suffered enough over the past four years.

The 36-year-old woman said her four children had endured enough pain and suffering after their father, who converted to Islam in 2020, unilaterally changed their religion.

Loh, who could not hold back her tears said this when met after the Federal Court's proceedings which affirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss MAIPs's judicial review challenging the children's conversion today.

"I do not want them (MAIPs) to disturb us... leave me alone.

"I am very happy with today's decision," she said.

Earlier, the top court dismissed leave (permission) by MAIPs and the Perlis government to review the lower court's decision in dismissing their case in January this year.

This means, the Court of Appeal's decision that the unilateral conversion by Loh's husband M. Nagahswaran was illegal will be taken as the final decision.

In today's proceeding, the three-member Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ruled that MAIPs' argument had already been addressed in a landmark decision in 2018 regarding Indira Gandhi's unilaterally converted children.

"There is no reason for this court to revisit the issues raised in this case.

"The Federal Court judgment in Indira Gandhi is binding throughout the nation," she said.

Meanwhile, counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla who appeared for MAIPs expressed acceptance of the top court's ruling with an open heart.

When asked whether they would file a review of the court's ruling, the senior lawyer said he would leave the decision to his client.

"There are provisions for review, but I will not advise my client to keep on filing for review after review for matters like this.

"We are at the leave stage, where the court could have granted leave but did not, so what is there to review?" he added.

On Jan 10, the appellate court allowed Loh's appeal against the High Court's decision which previously stated that there was no evidence indicating that her children had ceased practicing Islam while under her care.

Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail 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 another religion.

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

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

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

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

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