'Parent' becomes bone of contention in Indira Ghandi case

PUTRAJAYA: "Is the word parent singular or plural?."

This became a bone of contention in the Federal Court today during the conversion case of a child belonging to a Hindu mother, M. Indira Ghandi (pix).

The question was whether the mother or father of a child of a civil marriage must consent before a certificate of conversion to Islam can be issued in respect of the child.

The word "parent" appears in Article 12 (4) used in a singular form in the Federal Constitution, whereby it is stated that the religion of a person under the age 18 years old shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

Indira wants to quash the conversion certificate issued to her eight-year-old daughter Prasana Diksa after her former husband unilaterally converted her to Islam, without Indira's consent or knowledge.

Her legal team's argument is that the word "parent" means both "mother" and "father" (in Islamic law) and that the consent of both mother and father should be obtained, prior to conversion.

During the submission, Indira's lawyer Fahri Azzat said the interpretation of the word parent as "singular" leads to absurdity, if the word "parent" meant either one of them.

Senior Federal Counsel Dr.Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari said the meaning of the word parent is singular and not plural.

Arik said only the consent of one parent is needed for conversion and since the father had consented, the conversion of Indira's child is valid and in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

He said the word "parent" in its singular form means a father "or" a mother and its plural form means father "and" mother.

He said, according to dictionaries, the ordinary meaning of word "parent" spelt without the alphabet "s" means a father or a mother and referred to the word in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and other dictionaries.

He said the use of the word is distinguished in the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

Apart from the consent, lawyer K. Shanmuga said as long as both parents are alive the right is intact and that her consent is necessary for conversion.

He also said there must be the utterance of "Kalimah Syahadah" (Affirmation of Faith) by the child.

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan said when it comes to conversion, the Syariah Court has the exclusive jurisdiction.

As for the utterance of two clauses of "Kalimah Syahadah" by a minor, there is an exception as the consent of parent is needed. He said Indira's child was 11 months old during conversion.

On March 11, 2009, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah converted to Islam.

Riduan, who was formerly known as K. Pathmanathan, had unilaterally converted their three children in Perak on April 2, 2009, without the knowledge of Indira and Certificates of Conversion were issued.

Their three children are Tevi Darsiny, who turned 19 this year, Karan Dinish, who is now 18 years old and Prasana who is now with the father.

In 2010, the Ipoh High Court granted Indira full custody of all three children and Riduan was ordered to return Prasana to her mother.

The five-man panel of Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Zainun Ali, Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin and Tan Sri Ramly Ali, will decide on a date to be fixed, later.