The Star-Feb 4
The Federal Court decision on Jan 29 in the long-running M. Indira Gandhi case has restored public confidence in the judiciary.
The apex court reclaimed its place and powers as provided for in the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
The five judges settled several issues that have been cropping up in every unilateral conversion case that has made its way through the entire court system over the last 15 years.
They made it clear for future cases that may crop up that the power of judicial review of executive action is always vested in the High Court and “rests solely with the civil courts.”
The Federal Court also set the record straight for its own judges that the controversial Article 121(1A) of the Constitution did not extinguish this power of the High Court. As such, High Court judges may not decline jurisdiction in future unilateral conversion cases.
They effectively told civil court judges hearing applications for judicial review from a parent in a civil marriage, whose spouse has embraced Islam, not to slap fetters on themselves.
The court also set straight that although one parent in such a marriage has converted to Islam, the Law Reform (Marriage & Divorce) Act (LRA) and the Guardianship of Infants Act still apply. BOTH parents have equal rights in determining their child’s interests and consent is required from both parents for the conversion of a minor.
Constitutional law expert Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said it best when he described the decision of the Federal Court as showing “moral leadership” when it heard the cry for justice.
In his concurring judgment, the words of Court of Appeal President Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, who chaired the panel, that: “our courts are secular and unaffected by racial or religious sentiments” have also served to bolster public confidence.