Amendment to the Marriage and Divorce Law

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Press Release 

GOPIO appreciates the effort by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in approving the relevant amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 164 (1976) to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in October.

The amendment is to give the Civil Courts jurisdiction over civil marriages and divorces and custody and guardianship related matters. Addressing this long standing overdue conflict in jurisdiction between Civil Courts and Syariah Courts is laudable. GOPIO trusts that the amendments will bring an end to the injustice suffered by non-Muslims in the Civil Courts.

Since Shamala’s case in 2004, several similar cases have been reported. The Deepa and Indira Ghandhi cases where the husbands converted to Islam and subsequently converted the children too without their wives’ consent became a matter of great concern for the Hindu Community. These cases are still highlighted in the mainstream media until today and justice must be served.

Another point to note is that, in 2008 in Subashini’s case, the Federal Court ruled that the word Parent means either one of the parents and not both parents. The Bar council and many legal experts rightfully voiced out that the Federal Court has erred in its ruling in interpreting the word parent.

GOPIO would like to urge the government to amend the Article 12(4) of the constitution by making it very clear of the definition of the word parent to mean both parents and not just a single parent. This will pave way to nullify the ruling of the Federal Court on Subashini’s case.

GOPIO also came to understand through a press statement by G25 that the word “ibu bapa” in the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) version of the constitution (2002 edition) had used the word “ibu atau bapa” for the word parent. GOPIO had urged the Federal Government to look into this issue as well.

GOPIO observes that despite several promises by the Government to amend the law accordingly in past, the conflict remained unresolved. GOPIO believes that the effort under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will take effect as proven in many other matters.

GOPIO hopes the Federal Court judges will take into consideration the Cabinet’s approval and will deliver fair judgment in the pending case of Indira Gandhi to end her long suffering and distress.

A Ravendiran Arjunan
GOPIO Malaysia