PUTRAJAYA: The custody battle between Muslim convert Izwan Abdullah and his Hindu ex-wife S. Deepa ended with each getting one child. The Federal Court here granted custody of their eight-year-old son to Izwan and the 11-year-old daughter to Deepa.
Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, who chaired the five-man panel, made this order after interviewing the girl Nurul Nabila and her brother Nabil for 40 minutes in chambers yesterday.
“The boy said he wanted to be with his father and the girl wanted to be with her mother.
“Nabil is schooling in Kuala Pilah, Negri Sembilan, while the girl is schooling at an international school in Johor Baru, Johor, and it appears both of them are settled where they are.
“Our view under Section 88(3) of the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act 1976 is that the court shall not disturb the life of the child,” Justice Md Raus ruled in a unanimous decision yesterday.
He said the court was setting aside the orders of the High Court and Court of Appeal with regard to custody. The lower courts had given custody of both children to Deepa.
Others on the panel were Justices Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, Abdull Hamid Embong, Suriyadi Halim Omar and Azahar Mohamed.
Justice Md Raus also recorded a consent agreement between Izwan, 33, and clerk Deepa, 32, on access to the children.
Both agreed to allow the other access to the children on a Saturday, once every two months, at Deepa’s mother’s house in Jelebu, Negri Sembilan.
They also consented to reasonable access via phone without limitation, subject to the children’s availability. No overnight stay was allowed.
As soon as the court adjourned the proceedings at about 12.40pm, Deepa and Izwan were each seen approaching Nurul Nabila and Nabil.
The two were earlier known as Sharmila and Mithran before the unilateral conversion by their father.
Deepa could not hold back her tears while talking to Nabil for about 10 minutes. Both left the courtroom with the child in their custody.
Izwan’s current wife Sasibegam Abdullah, 30, was also with him.
Earlier in his ruling, Justice Md Raus said the civil court had the power to hear and determine the issue while the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction even if one spouse had converted to Islam.
He said the civil court was the proper forum to decide on the dissolution of marriages in such cases.
“The spouse cannot escape responsibility by converting to Islam. We have no reason to depart from the decision in R. Subashini’s case.
The court had in 2007, ruled that the dispute between secretary Subashini and her Muslim convert husband T. Saravanan over the dissolution of their marriage and child custody would continue to be under the jurisdiction of the civil court.
Justice Md Raus said it was an abuse of court process for a converting husband to file for dissolution of marriage and custody of children in the Syariah Court.
He said the conflict arose when Izwan brought the case to the Syariah Court which did not have the jurisdiction to dissolve the marriage or grant custody to the husband whose Hindu name was N. Viran.
They were married in 2003 and their marriage was solemnised according to Hindu rites.
On the High Court’s order to compel the Inspector-General of Police to recover the child, Justice Md Raus said the High Court should not have entertained the application by Deepa as there were conflicting orders by two courts on custody.
On Dec 17, 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld the Seremban High Court’s decision to give custody to Deepa, despite a conflicting custody order by the Seremban Syariah Court.
Izwan unilaterally converted the children without Deepa’s knowledge in 2012. He then went to the Seremban Syariah Court, where he was given custody of the children. The civil High Court later gave custody of both children to Deepa.
Despite this, Izwan took away Nabil on April 9, 2014.
On May 21, the High Court instructed that Nabil be returned to Deepa and ordered the police to assist her in getting back the child.