Cabinet must resolve Shariah-civil overlap – Tan Keng Liang

By Tan Keng Liang
I refer to the statement yesterday by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in backing the move by the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar not to take action over the recent case of S. Deepa.

Deepa was given custody of her two children by the Seremban High Court last Tuesday. A Shariah Court had earlier given custody of the children to her former husband, Izwan Abdullah. Subsequently, her former husband had taken away one of their children despite the recent custodial order by the High Court.

Khalid said the police was unable to act on the matter due to the conflicting decisions by the High Court and the Shariah Court.

Gerakan Youth is of the opinion that the police should at the very least investigate the case and refer the matter to the Attorney-General if there is a legal issue on the matter.

In the current case, there is a High Court order granting custodial right of the children to the mother. The ambiguity in law, whether the Shariah Court order granting custodial right to the father would still stand, should have been referred to the Attorney-General.

Currently, there seems to be an overlapping jurisdiction of the High Court and Shariah Court on matters involving the conversion of a spouse and custody of children.

In 2009, the Cabinet decided against unilateral conversion of minors. i.e., both parents must agree before a minor is converted. However, it is only a decision by the Cabinet and not enacted in our laws.

The law must be clear to ensure the Shariah Court cannot have jurisdiction to convert minors without the consents of both parents. The Shariah Court should also not have jurisdiction to grant custodial rights of minors who are not converted with the consents of both parents.

We urge the Cabinet to take lead to resolve the matter. The current official stand of the Home Ministry not to take action on the matter will be seen as the government’s official stand, and supersedes their 2009 decision, unless the Cabinet announces otherwise.

Gerakan Youth hopes the Cabinet will take lead in the Parliament to enact laws to remove the overlapping jurisdiction of the High Court and Shariah Court on this matter.

Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat must work together to resolve this long standing issue. This matter is above politics. – April 15, 2014.






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