After mooting ‘childcare centre’ solution, police reminded of duties and contempt risk

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — Police must enforce court orders instead of mooting their own solutions in child custody disputes, lawyers and an advocacy group said.

The police also risk being in contempt of court if they ignore court orders in custody battles involving non-Muslim and Muslim convert parents, they added.

In a bid to sidestep conflicting custody orders from the conventional  and Shariah courts, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said yesterday that children at the centre of interfaith custody battles could be placed in childcare centres to ensure fairness.

Khalid had been asked to comment on two recent cases in which Muslim convert fathers have refused to obey orders made by conventional courts  to hand over the children to their mothers.

“He must remember that he is a law enforcer, just enforce the law, as simple as that. Any other thing is not within his jurisdiction,” a lawyer involved in one of the cases, M. Kulasegaran told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

“His role and functions are very clear as provided by the Police Act and other relevant Acts – that he’s plainly a policeman. If he disobeys the order of the court, he will be held for contempt,” Kulasegaran, also MP for Ipoh Barat said.

The sentiment was echoed by Ivy Josiah, the executive director of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

“Setting up a safety net or playing the role of mediator is not the job of the police,” she said.

“There are relevant institutions like the Welfare Department and the family courts to decide what’s best for the child,” said Josiah, whose advocacy group is assisting the mother in another custody case.

The police should instead enforce the civil courts’ orders, she said.

“If the police don’t follow court orders, how can we expect ordinary citizens to?”

Josiah cited de facto law minister Nancy Shukri’s statement last week that police must enforce the civil court order to help the mother in a recent case to regain custody of her child.

In that case, the Muslim convert father had snatched the child from its mother, Deepa Subramaniam, even after she had been granted full custody.

For marriages that start as a civil union, the orders of the civil courts should be respected even when one party later converts to Islam, since a non-Muslim has no right to be heard in the Shariah court, Josiah said.

“Time and time again we see newly-converted spouses use the Shariah court system to scuttle the civil courts and use it to wield power against the non-Muslim spouse,” she said.

When contacted, Deepa’s lawyer Joanne Leong said that the Seremban High Court had granted her client a recovery order directing her ex-husband and police to return her six-year-old son Mithran Viran.

Leong pointed out that the civil court had stated in its May 21 recovery order that the “police have to act to recover Mithran regardless of any Shariah court order”.

If the police went ahead with their suggestion of putting Mithran in a childcare centre instead, they would be acting “contrary” to the civil court’s order, Leong said.

“That is a blatant disregard of the recovery order by the police if they really do that,” she added.

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After mooting ‘childcare centre’ solution, police reminded of duties and contempt risk
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