Subramaniam: Matters arising from civil marriages should not be disrupted by conversion issues.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet stands by the principle that matters arising out of civil marriages between two non-Muslims should be decided by the civil court, according to federal minister Dr S Subramaniam.
The Cabinet had reviewed the matter again on Wednesday, and the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, had made it very clear that he wanted to find a solution to the problem, he was reported to have said at a ponggal celebration at Batu Caves.
The family structure of a civil marriage between two non-Muslims and their children should not be disrupted by a conversion issue. “When a person converted, any issue related to that should be resolved within the ambit of (the) civil court; that is the whole crux of our decision. This is our (cabinet’s) principle,” he said, according to Malaysiakini.
Subramaniam’s remarks come in the midst of public discussion about the M. Indira Gandhi case, in which three of her children were unilaterally converted by her estranged husband who also took away their baby daughter, then aged 11 months, in 2009.
Civil courts have granted her full custody of all the three children and quashed their conversions, but the Court of Appeal has overturned the decision.
When her legal battle became news, the Cabinet decided in 2009 that a child must be raised in the faith professed by both parents at the time of the marriage, but ran into objections from the Rulers’ Conference.
Subramaniam said the government is exploring other ways, but refused to elaborate. “Yes, we are looking at various options and we are discussing with the Attorney-General’s Chambers. I can’t tell you the details.”
Subramaniam reiterated that custody of children in inter-faith disputes is a legal issue and not a religious matter.
This is a legal issue, where the law has been interpreted differently by different people and judges,” he was quoted as saying. In the face of this difference of opinion, it became the responsibility of legislators to spell out the law clearly.
“We will give clarity to the law itself so there is no need for the judges to interpret it differently,” he said.