Police can be held in contempt of court if they refuse to comply with a judge’s order to assist a woman to locate her son abducted by her convert ex-husband two months ago, lawyers said.


They said the police, as a law enforcement agency, must act to execute the order without delay to enjoy public confidence.


Refusal to act on the order obtained by clerk S. Deepa against her estranged husband Izwan Abdullah would only send a wrong message that police were selective when it came to inter-religious conflicts, they said, referring to police inaction to find Deepa’s son, V. Mithran.


The child was abducted by Izwan from her home in Jelebu on April 9.


The High Court in Seremban had two days earlier granted custody of the couple’s two children (Mithran and Sharmila) to Deepa on the grounds that the marriage had been solemnised under civil law.


After converting the children, Izwan also obtained a custody order from a Shariah Court in Seremban.


Deepa’s lawyers had handed over a copy of the sealed court order to Bukit Aman on May 23 but police said they would seek legal advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.


Lawyer Abd Shukor Ahmad said police must help Deepa to enforce the order that came from a competent authority.


“The police cannot hide behind religious sentiments as the confusion whether the civil court had authority over a Shariah Court has been clarified,” he said.


The High Court in Ipoh ruled last Friday that any custody order given by a religious court was illegal when one spouse is a non-Muslim.


He said while there were spouses who used conversion to gain custody of their children, the police must give effect to a court order.


“Deepa’s effort of going to court to get a remedy will only remain a paper judgment if the police folded their arms and did nothing.”


Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said the police could apply to set aside the order if they did not want to locate Izwan and return the boy to Deepa.


“It is a court directive which the police must follow or else they are in contempt,” he said.


Syahredzan said the public would form a negative opinion of police as law enforcers must be seen as neutral in race and religious matters.


Another lawyer Fahri Azzat, who shared Syaredzan’s view, said there was nothing wrong if the police wanted to seek the legal opinion of the A-G’s Chambers.


“However, police must assist the mother in enforcing the order if information had been given on the exact location of Izwan,” he said, adding that the possibility of the law enforcer being hauled up for contempt of court could not be ruled out.


Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said police inaction revealed that the enforcement agency had no respect for the rule of law or the need to uphold it.


“Police have failed to act to enforce Deepa’s right and her access to justice has been denied.”


Paulsen said this episode was a manifestation that extreme form of Islamisation was taking root in Malaysia and non-Muslims were defenceless.


He said in future, non-Muslims might decide not to go to court and those who have the resources would run away with their children or go into hiding because a custody battle was not worth fighting.


“The prime minister must take note of this incident or else this will eventually destroy this country.”


BY V. ANBALAGAN, The Malaysian Insider