Federal Court’s compromised justice in S. Deepa’s custodial dispute
11 February 2016
Lawyers for Liberty welcomes the Federal Court ruling yesterday in S. Deepa’s case that the civil court has exclusive jurisdiction to grant divorce, including custody, care and access of children where one spouse has unilaterally converted to Islam.
In addition, the Federal Court correctly ruled that it was an abuse of process when a spouse who converted to Islam files for dissolution of marriage and custody of children in the Syariah Court.
However, we are disappointed that Izwan Abdullah was granted custody of the youngest child despite him abducting the child from Deepa, two days after the Seremban High Court granted custody of both children to her. The Federal Court seems to be rewarding a wrongdoer who had blatantly disregarded the High Court order, thus giving the impression that a wrongdoer can abuse the legal process and benefit from it.
Further, the Federal Court ought also to have brought the IGP to task for failing to enforce the High Court order in recovering custody of the child who was forcibly taken away.
The Federal Court unfortunately delivered a King Solomon-like justice when it ordered the children to be split between the two disputing parties. The mother clearly the aggrieved party was distraught at the thought of losing her youngest child while the father, clearly the wrongdoer was more than happy to keep the child he abducted.
The judgment however does not resolve cases of such nature where a spouse can still unilaterally convert to Islam, obtain “custody” from the Syariah court in order to subvert the civil jurisdiction, abduct the child and still be rewarded with custody by the highest court in the country.
Deepa’s case is unfortunately one of the many instances where conversion to Islam by one spouse is being used in a very unfair manner in order to win custodial disputes. The unilateral conversion of children to any religion is clearly unconstitutional and certainly adverse to the best interest of the children which should be the court’s paramount concern.
We call upon the Government to urgently amend the relevant laws to resolve and provide a permanent and just solution to end the fraught questions of family disputes due to the religious conversion of one spouse to Islam.
Lawyers for Liberty
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