PUTRAJAYA: Two Court of Appeal judges have recused themselves from hearing two custody tussle cases in the civil and Syariah courts that involve children of convert fathers.
Justices Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid pulled out from hearing the cases after lead counsel K. Shanmuga, who appeared for clerk S. Deepa and kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi, said they had been advising the Attorney-General on law reform for conversion and custody cases.
The two judges, at that time, were holding positions in the A-G’s Chambers.
Senior Federal Counsel Suzana Atan, however, said the judges could hear the intervener application as they were not going into the merits of the appeals involved.
Court of Appeal judge Linton Albert, who chaired the three-man panel, said Justices Mohd Zawawi and Umi Kalthum opted out in the interest of justice.
“They felt justice must be seen as done.
“They opted to recuse themselves from hearing these two cases,” said Justice Linton, adding that a new panel of judges would be formed to hear the related cases.
On June 26, Abdul Gani and Inspector-General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar applied to the Court of Appeal to be made parties in custody battles involving the two Hindu mothers and their former husbands who had converted to Islam.
On Sept 19 last year, the Seremban Syariah High Court granted custody of children Nur Nabila Izwan, eight (V. Sharmila before conversion), Muhammad Nabil Izwan, five (V. Mithran) to Izwan Abdullah (previously N. Viran).
On April 7, however, the Seremban High Court gave custody of the children to Deepa.
In the other custody tussle involving Indira Gandhi and ex-husband Mohamad Riduan (formerly known as K. Pathmanathan), the Ipoh Syariah High Court had on Sept 29, 2009 granted custody of their three children to the father.
On March 11, 2010, however, the Ipoh High Court allowed the children to be under Indira’s care with a once-a-week access given to the father.
On May 30, the court ordered the police to get one of the two daughters, Umu Habibah (Prasana Diksa before conversion), from Mohamad Riduan to be handed back to Indira.
Speaking to reporters later, Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan said the appellate court had set Sept 10 to hear the intervener application and case management for two appeals.