KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has ordered for the immediate release of the children of single mother Loh Siew Hong from the care of the Welfare Department.
Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah made the ruling after allowing a writ of habeas corpus filed by Loh, who sought for the immediate release of her three children.
The judge noted that there was an existing court order by the High Court, dated March 31, 2021, that granted Loh the sole custody, care and control of her three children.
"There was also earlier an interim ex-parte order dated Dec 20, 2019, which granted sole custody, care and control of her children to the applicant.
"The court orders still stand, still valid. The court orders are not to be treated with impunity upon the face of contempt of court.
"By the reason that the court orders still stand, therefore, I allow the application of writ of habeas corpus.
"The three children are to be released forthwith into the sole custody, care and control of the applicant," the judge said here on Monday (Feb 21).
Loh was seen sobbing in the public gallery after the decision was delivered.
In her notice of motion, filed through Messrs SS Thind on Feb 13, Loh named Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah as the first respondent and an unnamed party that she claimed to be holding her three children as the second respondent.
According to the court document, Loh is seeking for a writ of habeas corpus or other appropriate orders by the court to compel the three children's immediate release from the private custody of the respondents, and for the children to be returned to her.
She stated that her children are in the care of the first respondent in Bayan Lepas, Penang, and that she was not allowed to meet or bring them home.
The children, she said, were later moved to Perlis and under the control of the respondents.
"The actions of the respondents to keep the children without the applicant's consent constitutes an illegal detention or inappropriate detention in a private care and this warrants the court's intervention, as the applicant does not know the specific location of her children.
"The applicant has reasons to believe that there are intention and attempts by the respondents to convert her children to Islam and to take them outside of this court's jurisdiction," the document stated.
Earlier, the court heard submissions from both parties.
Lawyer Aidil Khalid, who represented the first respondent, said there was never an issue of illegal custody by his client.
He said the applicant herself had wanted to hand over the children to the Welfare Department.
"The children are there at the application of the mother, how can that be said as unlawful detention?" the lawyer said.
Aidil also said attempts were made to allow mom to see the children but problems came not from the respondent but from the mother.
On the issue of religion as raised by the applicant, Aidil said unilateral conversion was irrelevant as the children were registered as Hindus at birth.
"They were following the religion of the ex-husband, whereas the religion of the mother (during birth registration) was stated to be Buddhist.
"During the time of marriage, clearly they had some arrangement that the children follow the father's religion. Otherwise, why would the mother remain a Buddhist while the children are Hindus following the father," he added.
Meanwhile, lawyer A. Srimurugan said that Loh was given the run-around when she attempted to reach her children.
"The mother is a victim of domestic abuse. She got divorced. She doesn't have financial means but they told her to come to the children instead of bringing the children to her.
"This is a mother who is distraught and in distress. At this very moment, she can't even be near the children," he added.
The court also heard that the children were converted to Islam in July 2020, while the decree absolute to end the marriage between Loh and her ex-husband was issued in 2021.