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Home > News > PTI

Malaysia: Hindu woman's appeal rejected

Jaishree Balasubramanian | December 27, 2007 13:18 IST

Malaysia's highest court on Thursday rejected on technical grounds an appeal by an ethnic Indian Hindu woman to stop her Muslim convert husband from seeking a divorce in the Islamic 'Shariah' court, while upholding the man's right to change the religion of their youngest son.

Twenty nine-year-old R Subashini's petition was rejected by the Federal Court as she had filed it within three months of the conversion of her husband, Saravanan Thangathoray alias Muhammad Shafi Abdullah, 32.

Her lawyers said she will again file the petition in the High Court to meet the legal requirement that it should be filed three months after the conversion. Subashini is not opposed to divorcing her husband, but wants the procedure to take place in a civil court.

The Federal Court on Thursday said her Muslim convert husband had a right to approach the Shariah courts. It also upheld his right to convert the couple's youngest of the two sons to Islam.

Saravanan claims that the elder child had already converted to Islam with him. The judgment further said that both civil courts and Shariah courts have equal status in Malaysia.

A clear picture of Thursday's ruling would emerge after a full reading of the verdict, lawyers said.

Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman, the presiding judge of the three-member panel, noted that 'civil courts continue to have jurisdiction, notwithstanding his (the husband's) conversion to Islam... A non-Muslim marriage continues to exist until the High Court dissolves it.'

Subashini, a former Secretary, had appealed the Court of Appeal's 2-1 majority decision on a March 13 ruling that her husband could go to the Shariah Court and commence proceedings to dissolve their marriage.

The appellate court held that the Civil Court cannot stop a Muslim convert from going to the Shariah Court to dissolve his marriage with his non-Muslim spouse or from initiating proceedings relating to custody of their children.

Subashini had brought her appeal to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court in an attempt to reverse the Family Court's decision to set aside her ex-parte injunction to temporarily prevent Saravanan from commencing proceedings in the Shariah Court over their marriage or conversion of their younger son.

Subashini married Saravanan, also an ethnic Indian, in a Hindu wedding in 2002. The couple's sons, Dharvin and Sharvind, are now aged 4 and 2 respectively. Saravanan converted to Islam in 2006 and informed his wife, who attempted suicide and was hospitalised. When she returned home, Saravanan had left with Dharvin, the elder child whom he claims has also converted to Islam,

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