What is ‘singular’ or ‘plural’ in our written law?

Jiwi Kathaiah

Modified 20 Jun 2014, 3:25 am

Come Aug 31, 2014 Malaysia will have completed 57 years of its existence as an independent country with its primary, secondary schools, colleges and universities of all sorts for us to have learnt what is meant by the words ‘singular’ and ‘plural’ in ordinary expression and in written law.

Apparently, our politicians, including our ministers, and some of our judges who are supposed to earn their daily living through a day’s honest work, have not learnt the meaning of the words ‘singular’ and ‘plural’ as they are defined in written law to mean.

In recent years, we have seen a consistent move on the part of some politicians, including ministers, and some judges who are generally blinded by religious fanaticism to interpret and declare that the word ‘parent’ as stated in the federal constitution is singular and as such it means only one of the parents, either the father or the mother, but not both. So it is enough for one of the parents, either the mother or the father, to consent to the conversion of a minor.

In ordinary speech the word ‘parent’ may be taken to mean either the father or the mother, and ‘parents’ is supposed to mean father and mother. But it need not necessarily be so. Any number of fathers can jointly state ‘we parents’. Mothers can also do likewise.

Now, look at Article 12(4) of the federal constitution. It reads, ”For the purpose of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his (stress supplied) parent or guardian.” There is no reference to ‘her’ in this clause. Does it then mean the ‘parent or guardian’ of a GIRL under the age of 18 years is barred from deciding HER religion.

If it is so, then in the M Indira Gandhi case her converted husband could not have unilaterally converted HIS daughter. Surely that was not intended by the framers of the constitution. For them ‘HIS’ included ‘Her’.

So, in legal parlance singular, plural, his, her and other words have their defined meanings. Our constitution, Article 160 (1) states, “The Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance, 1948, as in force immediately before Merdeka Day shall, to the extent specified in the Eleventh Schedule, apply for the interpretation of this Constitution as it applies for the interpretation of any written law within the meaning of that Ordinance, but with the substitution of references to the yang di-Pertuan Agong for references to the High Commissioner.”

What does the Eleventh Schedule provide for:

Section 2(94) states, “Construction of masculine gender - words importing the masculine gender include females.”

Section 2(95) states, “Construction of singular or plural - words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular.”

Which is supreme: the words of the constitution or the misinterpretation of the ministers or the judges?

JIWI KATHAIAH is editor of Semparuthi.com .