Hindu mother Loh Siew Hong to find out if able to challenge children’s unilateral conversion in court

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — Hindu mother Loh Siew Hong will today find out whether she would be allowed to challenge the unilateral conversion of her children to Islam without her consent.

High Court Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh will today deliver its decision on Loh's application for leave in the judicial review against the unilateral conversion of her three children.

For lawsuits filed through judicial review applications, leave or permission must be obtained first from the court before the lawsuit can be heard.

In Loh’s case, her three children were converted to Islam by her ex-husband without her consent and she is contesting they were incapable of embracing Islam without her consent in 2019.

She had named the Registrar of Mualaf, Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis, besides Perlis state mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and the Perlis state government as respondents.

Among others, Loh is seeking declarations that her children are Hindu and that the children are legally unfit to embrace Islam without Loh’s approval.

She is also seeking a declaration that her former husband, Muhammad Nagashwaran Muniandy is legally unfit to allow the Registrar of Mualaf to convert their children without her approval.

Furthermore, Loh is seeking a certiorari — Latin for quashing order — to reverse her children’s registration of conversion to Islam dated July 7, 2020 issued by the registrar.

She is also seeking a declaration that the Perlis state’s legal provision that allows for one parent to unilaterally convert a child is unconstitutional.

In their objections, the named respondents contended that as the children —14-year-old twin girls and a 10-year-old boy — were converted on July 7, 2020, the application for leave should have been made within 90 days of that date.

Under the Rules of Court Order 53 rule 3(6), an application for judicial review shall be made promptly and in any event within three months from the date when the grounds of the application first arose or when the decision is first communicated to the applicant.

The Court however may, upon an application, extend the time specified in rule 4(1) and if it considers that there is a good reason for doing so.

Loh’s lawyer A. Srimurugan said his client had only gotten confirmation of the conversion when she was reunited with her children in February this year.

Srimurugan also added that Loh only officially received confirmation of the children’s conversion from the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council after obtaining their certificates of conversion in March.

Since the respondents had argued the application was made out of time following the lapse of the 90 days time frame, Srimurugan said Loh had also requested for an extension of time in her application.

In December 2019, Loh obtained interim custody of her children pending her divorce, but her court case was delayed when the country went into Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020; she finally obtained an order granting her full and sole custody in March 2021.

On February 21 this year, Loh was finally reunited with her children after the High Court granted her a writ of habeas corpus for an immediate release of her three children from alleged unlawful detention.

Should Loh fail in her leave application at the High Court, she still has the legal avenue to file an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

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