Will Deepa’s daughter be allowed to practise Hindu faith, asks Teresa

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(Sassy MP) – With the dust barely settled on the custody battle between Hindu mother S. Deepa and her Muslim convert ex-husband, many questions remain unanswered over the fate of their two children, DAP said today.

The party’s vice chairperson Teresa Kok who described yesterday Federal Court decision as “disappointing overall” said that one poser now was whether Deepa’s 11-year-old daughter Sharmila can now practise her faith as a Hindu since she was unilaterally converted to Islam by her father Izwan Abdullah.

“Will Deepa and her daughter be required to go through another stressful process of renouncing the conversion?

“And which court will have the jurisdiction over this matter,” Kok asked in a statement today.

The Seputeh lawmaker said that the amendment to Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution resulted in the shariah courts not being bound by the decision of the civil courts, notwithstanding that the Federal Court is the highest civil court of the land.

Kok said even the attorney-general has no control over the shariah courts.

As such, she said, until suitable amendments are made by Putrajaya, the provisions in the constitution will allow the shariah courts to operate as an independent entity, adding that this would result in more cases similar to Deepa’s and kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi.

“I hold the view that the article which was amended in such a hasty and impetuous manner by the government is the main cause that has attributed to several anomalous cases in Malaysia, in the likes of Indira Gandhi, Deepa and others.

“It appears that notwithstanding the latest Federal Court decision in Deepa, there is no guarantee that another shariah court will not do the same as the earlier shariah court did in Deepa and in others,” Kok said.

The Federal Court yesterday granted Deepa custody of her daughter Sharmila but her son Mithran to Izwan.

Tan Sri Raus Sharif who chaired a five-man bench said that the Seremban High Court should not have issued a recovery order under the Child Act because the custody order from the Shariah Court was also recognisable under civil law.

The bench set aside the High Court recovery order and revoked the Shariah Court custody order.

It went on to vary the High Court’s custody order where both children were supposed to be under the care of Deepa.

Raus said the variation order was made as the children were settled well in their present environment.

“We are guided by the best interest of the children as stated under section 88 (1) of the Law Reform Act (Marriage and Divorce) 1976,” he said.