MAIPs allowed to intervene in custody order granted to single mum Loh

MAIPs allowed to intervene in custody order granted to single mum Loh
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PUTRAJAYA (Feb 7): The Court of Appeal on Tuesday (Feb 7) allowed the Perlis Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council's (MAIPs) appeal to intervene in the custody order granted to single mother Loh Siew Hong whose three children were converted to Islam by her Muslim-convert ex-husband.

The decision was delivered by a three-member bench comprising judges Datuk Has Zanah Mehat, Datuk See Mee Chun and Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.

In delivering the court's decision, Has Zanah said based on the reading of two provisions — Order 15 Rule 6 of the Rules of Court 2012 and Section 96 of the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 — it would confer MAIPs a legal right to intervene.

She said the present issue before the court was whether MAIPs has the right to intervene to vary the custody order granted by the High Court.

"Therefore, there was no necessity for us to dwell on the legality or otherwise of the conversion of the children," she said in allowing MAIPs' appeal to set aside the decision of the High Court.

On June 15 last year, High Court judge Evrol Mariette Peters dismissed MAIPs' application to intervene after finding that MAIPs had failed to show that it was an interested party in relation to the children.

MAIPs' counsel Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdullah said following Tuesday's court decision, the religious council would file an application in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to vary the custody order in the divorce petition between Loh and her ex-husband Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy.

In the divorce petition, Loh, 35, has been granted sole custody, care and control over her three children, a pair of 15-year-old twin girls and an 11-year-old boy.

MAIPs filed the application to intervene on March 7 last year to enable the religious authority to have the locus standi (legal standing) to apply to vary the terms of the custody order granted to Loh.

On Feb 21 last year, the three siblings, who were placed under the care of the Social Welfare Department, were released to Loh after the High Court allowed her habeas corpus application.

Loh has also filed a judicial review application to challenge her children's conversion to Islam which she claimed was done by her ex-husband without her consent. The High Court is scheduled to hear her judicial review application on March 21.

In the court proceedings on Tuesday, Mohamed Haniff submitted that MAIPs has the statutory duty to look after the well-being, education and guidance of Muslim converts and also to offer financial assistance from tithe funds.

Loh's lawyer A Srimurugan, however, argued that MAIPs should not be allowed to intervene as there was nothing on record to suggest that Loh would act contrary to her children’s faith or try to convert them out or that she was in need of financial help.