- The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Centre to a petition by a West Bengal-based Muslim woman to declare the practices of talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq), nikah halala and polygamy under Muslim personal laws as illegal and unconstitutional.
- Nikah Halala is a divorce diktat in Sharia law. A divorced couple cannot remarry unless the woman marries another man again and he divorces her.
- SC tagged the petition filed by Ishrat Jahan, who is a native of Howrah, with a batch of petitions filed by other Muslim women, women’s rights organisations and the Supreme Court’s ownsuo motu PIL to consider whether certain practices of marriage and divorce under Islamic personal law amount to gender discrimination.
- The Bench issued notices to the Ministries of Women and Child Development, Law and Justice, Minority Affairs, the National Commission for Women, the police chiefs of Bihar and West Bengal, and Ms. Jahan’s husband, Murtuza Ansari.
- However, it refused to aid her in finding her four minor children, who she claims were “taken away” by her husband.
- Instead, the Bench asked her to move a habeas corpus petition in the High Court concerned.
Uniform Civil code
- Uniform civil code is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen.
- These laws are distinguished from public law and cover marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.
- Article-44 of theDirective Principles in India sets its implementation as duty of the State.
Shah Bano case in 1985
- Shah Bano case was a controversial maintenance lawsuit in India.
- Shah Bano, a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, was divorced by her husband in 1978.
- She filed a criminal suit in the Supreme Court of India, in which she won the right to alimony (maintenance) from her husband.
- However, she was subsequently denied the alimony when the Indian Parliament reversed the judgement under pressure from Islamic orthodoxy.
- The judgement in favour of the woman in this case evoked criticisms among Muslims some of whom cited Qur’an to show that the judgement was in conflict with Islamic law.
- It triggered controversy about the extent of having different civil codes for different religions, especially for Muslims in India.
- This case caused the Congress government, with its absolute majority, to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which diluted the judgment of the Supreme Court and, in reality, denied even utterly destitute Muslim divorcées the right to alimony from their former husbands
- However, in the later judgements including Daniel Latifi caseand Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, the SC of India interpreted the act in a manner reassuring the validity of the case and consequently upheld the Shah Bano judgement and The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 was nullified.
- Many Muslims including All India Shia Personal Law Board supported the Supreme Court’s order to make the right to maintenance of a divorced Muslim wife absolute.
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