KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has granted single mother Loh Siew Hong leave for a judicial review application, as she seeks a declaration that her former husband was legally unfit to convert their children to Islam.
Judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said Loh had crossed the threshold to have the merit of her complaint heard.
“Her application for leave is not frivolous. Instead, she has an arguable case,” the judge said in delivering his decision in an online proceeding.
Wan Ahmad said Loh was also not out of time when she filed her leave application as “an abundance of caution”.
One of the respondents – the Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis, represented by lawyer Mohamed Hanif Khatri Abdulla – had asked the court to reject her application as the conversion was done in 2020.
The judge said Loh’s lawyers had written to the registrar of mualaf on March 4 this year to ascertain the conversion.
“She was well within time when the leave application was filed on March 25 this year after getting a reply,” he said.
An application for leave for judicial review must be filed within 90 days after a public hearing authority communicates its decision to an aggrieved party.
Senior federal counsel Ainul Wardah Shahidan represented the three respondents – the registrar of mualaf, Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin and the state government.
Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, who appeared for Attorney-General Idrus Harun, did not object to the leave sought by Loh.
In her application, Loh said the children, whose names and photos cannot be published because of a gag order issued by the High Court, were converted on July 7, 2020.
Loh’s lawyer, A Srimurugan, submitted that his client only knew about the exact date of conversion after regaining custody of her children on Feb 21 this year.
On that day, High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah granted Loh’s habeas corpus application to regain custody of the children from preacher Nazirah Nanthakumari Abdullah.
Srimurugan said assisting counsel Shamsher Singh Thind had written to the registrar on the status of the conversion soon after Sequerah’s ruling.
Loh is also seeking a declaration that a provision in the Perlis state enactment that allows a parent to unilaterally convert minor children is unconstitutional.
She also wants a declaration that her twin daughters and her son are of Hindu faith and were legally incapable of embracing Islam without her consent.
Loh contended that she had obtained a civil court order giving her custody, care and control of her children in 2020.-FMT