Indira Gandhi wins legal battle over children's custody, conversion to Islam by ex-husband

Police now forced to track down her daughter

India seeks Malaysia's help to de-radicalisation Islamic education system
Picture for representation Reuters

The Federal Court of Malaysia, today, has dismissed the religious conversion of three children by their converted father, after he separated from his Hindu wife, stating that consent of both parents is needed in such cases. This is, no doubt, a landmark victory of a mother after the nearly decade-long legal battle in the Muslim-majority nation.

The judgement came after the judges decided both parents have equal rights and the word "parent" in the Constitution cannot be taken literally. The apex court's judge Tan Sri Zainun Ali, while reading out the 99-page judgment, said that the conditions were not fulfilled as the children were not present during the conversion. Thus they cannot be registered as Muslims.

The court also said that the Registrar of Muallafs (Muslim converts) acted beyond its powers in this case.

Indira Gandhi's former husband who converted and changed his name to Mohd Riduan Abdullah soon converted their three children, who were still minors then, to Islam in 2009 without her knowledge. He also took away her youngest child, Prasana Diksa, who is now 9 years old, and she hasn't met her since then. The other two children are 20 years old, 19 years old now and remained with their mother.

Abdullah, who is at large now, was a Hindu himself and was known as K. Pathmanathan before. He converted just three weeks before he converted his children.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system for dealing with cases related to marriage and family and some issues fall under the Islamic court's jurisdiction.

Earlier the high court had nullified the conversion but Abdullah appealed and thus police did not follow the courts' order to arrest Riduan in 2014. Things were messier as custody battle was also going on.