High Court sets May 11 for decision in Loh's unilateral conversion challenge

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has fixed May 11 to deliver its decision in a judicial review filed by Loh Siew Hong to contest the unilateral conversion to Islam of her three children by her ex-husband without her consent.

Justice Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh set the date after hearing submissions from parties here on Tuesday (March 21).

Earlier, the court heard from Loh's lawyer, A. Srimurugan, that there was no dispute by the respondents that the children - all of whom were minors - were indeed converted without Loh's consent.

He said as this fact was established, the only live issue before the court was on the legal status of such conversion.

Srimurugan cited the case of Indira Gandhi vs the Perak Islamic Religious Affairs Department director where the Federal Court made a ruling that the unilateral conversion of minors to the religion of Islam was illegal.

Meanwhile, Perlis state legal adviser Mohd Radhi Abas argued that the correct interpretation for the word "parent" as per Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution had meant for either the mother or father.

Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution stated that the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his or her parent or guardian.

He said there were 13 provisions in the Constitution where the word parent or parents were used and these words must be differentiated.

"Parliament had carefully used the word 'parent' in the singular or 'parents' in the plural in the Constitution.

"It (the Constitution) was passed by Parliament, and echoing the words of (the late Chief Justice) Tun Abdul Hamid Omar, the court is not Parliament," he said.

Mohd Radhi said the difference between the words parent and parents was not discussed in the 2018 Indira Gandhi case.

"Under the separation of powers, the right to legislate falls on Parliament.

"With the highest respect, the court should take it as it is," he added.

Loh, 35, had first filed for leave to initiate a judicial review application on March 25, 2022, and named the Perlis State Registrar of Converts, Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government as the first to the fourth respondent.

The single mother is seeking a declaration that her three children are Hindus and her ex-husband, M. Nagahswaran, did not have the legal capacity to allow the Perlis State Registrar of Converts to register their children as converts without her consent.

The woman is also seeking a declaration that her three children, as children, do not have the legal capacity to convert to Islam without her consent.

On Aug 1, 2022, she successfully obtained the leave sought from the High Court as Justice Wan Ahmad Farid said her application had merits and that she had established an arguable case.

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