Woman turns to apex court in battle over religious status


A 37-year-old woman embroiled in a legal battle over her religious status has turned to the Federal Court in an attempt to set aside a Court of Appeal decision reinstating her as a Muslim.

Her counsel A Surendra Ananth, when contacted, confirmed that his client had filed a notice of motion yesterday, seeking leave to pursue her appeal to the Federal Court.

On Jan 13 this year, the Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 majority decision, allowed the appeals by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the state government to reinstate the woman as a Muslim. 

This followed a decision by the Shah Alam High Court on Dec 21, 2021, nullifyng her conversion to Islam.

In civil cases, litigants must get leave from the court before they can file their appeal to the Federal Court.
In her application, the woman asked the Federal Court to determine four questions of law, including whether in a situation where a shariah court order is invalid, that order can be challenged collaterally in the Civil High Court and whether Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution is applicable.

She also asked whether Section 74(3) of the Administration of Islamic Law Enactment 1989 (Selangor) ousts the jurisdiction of the High Court to determine the validity of a minor’s conversion to Islam.

In her originating summons, the woman, who was born a Hindu to a Hindu father and a Buddhist mother in 1986, sought a declaration that she was not a person professing the religion of Islam.

She said her mother converted to Islam in 1991 and unilaterally converted her, who was then turning five years old, at the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) office.

The woman claimed that despite her conversion to Islam, her mother and stepfather allowed her to continue practising the Hindu faith. She claimed that she never professed the religion of Islam.
On Dec 12, 2013, the woman filed a summons at the Kuala Lumpur Shariah High Court seeking a declaration that she was no longer a Muslim. On July 20, 2017, the court dismissed her summons. The Shariah Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal on Aug 1, 2017.

The woman then filed a suit at the Shah Alam High Court, which granted her a declaration that she was not a Muslim. 

Surendra said the Federal Court had fixed March 2 for case management of his client’s application for leave to appeal.

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