KL top court orders arrest of father in custody fight

Malaysian police were torn between orders by civil and Syariah courts, and failed to act

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysia's highest court has ordered the police to arrest a Muslim convert who disobeyed a court order in a custody battle that has raised tensions between Muslims and Hindus.

The Federal Court allowed an appeal by kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi for the execution of an arrest warrant against her ex-husband, Mr Mohamad Riduan Abdullah, who disobeyed a High Court order to deliver the couple's daughter to the mother, reported The Star.

Ms Gandhi and Mr Riduan - born K. Pathmanathan - have been locked in a prolonged legal battle over custody of their children following their divorce.

The Ipoh Syariah High Court had on Sept 29, 2009 granted custody of the couple's three children to the father, who had converted to Islam.

However, the Ipoh High Court on March 11, 2010 placed the children in Ms Gandhi's custody, with once-a-week access given to the father.

The Ipoh Syariah High Court had on Sept 29, 2009 granted custody of the couple's three children to the father, who had converted to Islam. However, the Ipoh High Court on March 11, 2010 placed the children in Ms Gandhi's custody, with once-a-week access given to the father.

When Mr Riduan failed to return one of their daughters, Prasana, to his ex-wife, the court cited him for contempt and ordered the police to return the child to its mother.

Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar did not act on the order, however, taking the stand that the police were in a quandary because there were two custody orders, from the High Court and the Syariah High Court, and executing one would mean showing disrespect to the other, according to The Star.

Ipoh High Court Judge Lee Swee Seng, in his landmark ruling on Sept 12, 2014, granted Ms Gandhi's application for a mandamus order, saying the IGP must enforce the civil court's orders, not that of the Syariah Court.

A mandamus order is a writ which commands an individual, organisation, administrative tribunal or court to perform a certain action, usually to correct a prior illegal action or a failure to act in the first place.

Ms Gandhi had to file an appeal with the Federal Court for enforcement of the order after the Court of Appeal rejected the High Court's mandamus order to retrieve the child and arrest Mr Riduan in December 2014.

The apex court yesterday ruled that the High Court order against Mr Riduan was justified as he repeatedly failed to produce the couple's child in court, reported The Malay Mail Online.

However, Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, who led the four-member bench, said the apex court could not make an order with regard to the Ipoh High Court's order to retrieve the child as it has "consequences".

Mr Raus said that a mandamus order can also be issued against the IGP if he fails to do his duty to arrest Mr Riduan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'KL top court orders arrest of father in custody fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe