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Gov't: Indira's case means law against unilateral conversion no longer needed

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The government will not be reintroducing Section 88A to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 (LRA), which outlaws unilateral conversion as there is now a legal precedent preventing this.

De facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong referred to the Federal Court's decision in M Indira Gandhi's case, which decided that the conversion of a minor must require the consent of both parents.

"Therefore, this interpretation (by the Federal Court) can resolve the issue of unilateral conversion by one parent who converts to Islam.

"There is no longer a need to include Section 88A in the LRA," Liew said in a parliamentary written reply.

He was responding to a question from former de facto law minister Azalina Othman, who asked if Section 88A would be reintroduced.

Section 88A was initially included in the draft amendment to the LRA in 2016 but was later dropped by the then BN government in August 2017.

This came after concerns were raised that the definition of "parent" in the Federal Constitution could refer to only one parent, instead of both.

Liew noted that there were precedent cases to suggest this such as the Federal Court's 2008 decision in R Subahini vs T Saravanan as well as Indira's case when it was at the Court of Appeal stage.

"However, in the latest Federal Court case, namely Indira Gandhi vs the Perak Islamic Affairs Department and others, the court interpreted "parent" in Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution as both parents," he said.

Article 12(4) states: "For the purposes of Clause (3) the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian".

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