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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1, 2016:

Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution has been interpreted by some quarters in a way that was not originally intended in its amendment.

Centre For A Better Tomorrow (CENBET) co-president Gan Ping Sieu said this has emboldened some to rewrite the supreme law of the land without any legislative amendments.

He said the Court of Appeal has abdicated its judicial role to defend the supremacy and sanctity of the Federal Constitution with its recent ruling pertaining to the conversion of M. Indira Gandhi’s children.

“The court’s majority judgment means that whether a person is Muslim or not can only be determined by the syariah courts and that the civil courts have no jurisdiction.

“The syariah court system is created by Federal laws and has a clearly defined jurisdiction.

“It has no jurisdiction over non-Muslim nor can non-Muslims seek redress in a syariah court,” he said in a press release issued today.

He said unlike in cases where individuals are clearly Muslims, Indira’s case is one where the religious identity of her children was fiercely contested.

“The creeping judicial inclination in cases of this nature has created a lacuna in our justice system.

“Indira’s case bears testimony and the mother’s misery which lasted close to a decade, is still showing no signs of coming to an end.

“In the end, what is really a case of family dispute has morphed into a racial and religious monster that drives even deeper the wedge between the different communities in this country.”

Gan said this provided a fertile ground for bigots and extremists to rise, against the principle of moderation, which CENBET fiercely defends and promotes.

He said the abdication of judicial role by our judges is lamentable.

“Access to justice is not only delayed but completely denied in the present case.

“It is therefore incumbent upon the government and politicians from both divides to address the issues, including enacting laws necessary to rectify the gross injustice currently occasioned.

“The government must also abide by the April 2009 Cabinet decision where children of divorced parents should be raised in their religion at the time of the marriage, regardless of whether a parent had converted or not.”

He said the dispute involves whether a person has or has not become a muallaf (a Muslim convert) and is validly registered in a State Muallaf Register.

“In such cases, only the civil High Courts are rightfully vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate such disputes and not otherwise.

“If the National Registry Department were to erroneously register one’s religious status, for example; one’s MyKad shows that one is a Muslim when one is clearly not, the aggrieved party must be allowed to seek legal redress at a civil court and not otherwise,” he added.

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