KUALA LUMPUR: In the light of the Federal Court ruling preventing unilateral conversion of children by any one parent, the government will look into reintroducing Clause 88A into the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) (Amendment) Bill 2016.
On Monday, the Federal Court ruled that the unilateral conversion of M. Indira Ghandi's three children by her Muslim convert ex-husband was null and void.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government accepted the decision of the Federal Court, stating that the country and its people must respect the judicial system.
He said it was difficult to please everybody but whatever the outcome, it was important that the system was respected and upheld.
"We may have differences in opinions but we have to accept the court's decision.
"We will look into the matter and we respect the position," Najib, who is also Umno President, said after the Umno Supreme Council meeting.
Clause 88A states that the religion of a child who is a product of the marriage “shall remain as the religion of the parties to the marriage prior to the conversion”.
The clause also provides that the child can, after turning 18 and with the consent of both parents, convert to Islam.
Clause 88A was withdrawn from the amendment to the Legal Reform Act in August last year.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman said the government had to remove it as it was against the Constitution.
The law, which was passed five months ago in Parliament, was chaired by deputy speaker Ronald Kiandee.
Azalina, during the debate, had admitted that with or without the amendment, the problem was unlikely to be resolved.
Several opposition members accused the government of rushing to approve the law, which Azalina denied.
“If the government was hurrying things up, we would not need to table this. Might as well we withdraw the 164 Act until we find the solution.
“But this is not just an issue of Islam, but also one of the family and child’s rights, not only on conversion.
"But this does not mean that the government has failed. We have to respect and adhere to the Attorney General directive that it was unconstitutional
“This is not the end. I admit that we have to go deeper. This is a step towards solving the matter in a holistic manner,” she was quoted saying during the debate.
On Monday, a five-man panel, chaired by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, unanimously made its decision after allowing Indira's final appeal to challenge the validity of her children's conversion to Islam.
In a summary of a 99-page judgment read out by Federal Court judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali, the court ruled that the consent of both parents was needed to convert a minor.
"The consent of both the appellant (Indira) and her husband are required before a Certificate of Conversion to Islam can be issued in respect of the children," she said.
Kindergarten teacher Indira, 43, had first filed a judicial review application in August 2009 at the Ipoh High Court to challenge the conversion of the three children – Tevi Darsiny, 21, Karan Dinish, 20 and Prasana Diksa, 10 – to Islam by Muhammad Riduan Abdullah, 48, whose Hindu name was K. Patmanathan.
Police are still looking for Muhd Riduan, who is believed to be in Malaysia.