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Supreme Court examines self; ‘Are we being too liberal with law in granting divorce?’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

A bench of Supreme Court has decided to examine whether the top court should grant divorce to couples on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, without taking into consideration the mandatory 18-month period of separation.

Under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has been exercising its authority to grant divorce to married couples even when the Hindu Marriage Act demands the couple to stay apart for 18 months before separating with mutual consent.

The Article 142 states that the Supreme Court has the power to deliver any order required “for doing complete justice.” The court has used this act as a provision to grant divorce in many cases, dispensing the six-month waiting period after a judicial separation of one year, which makes it 18 months under Section 13B of the Act.

As reported in The Indian Express, the government has informed the top court that there is no proposal in the Article to include irretrievable breakdown of marriage as one of the conditions to grant divorce. However, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana has decided to examine whether judges should override the legislative will. As per the report, while negotiating a bunch of petitions wherein couples wanted the waiting period to be dissolved since there was an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage,” Justices Gogoi and Ramana conjectured on whether they should exercise such power against what the Act permits.

They asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his perspective. AG Rohtagi reportedly stated that the legislature was not considering irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a basis for granting divorce.

Rohatgi said that there have been dissenting views of different benches of the apex court between 1996 and 2010, regarding the dissolution of the six-month notice period. While some judges agreed for the relaxation of six-month notice period, the others said if legislature had a specific provision, couples should be sent to family courts for getting divorce .

According to the report, Rohatgi decided to leave it on the constitution bench to decide whether divorce can, at all, be granted on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and the waiting period should be done away with.

While the bench is waiting to hear the case in August, NewsGram asked general public for their opinions on the subject.

Himanshu Kumar, a working professional, states, “Irretrievable breakdown will be a too flexible law to grant divorces, because the definition for irretrievable varies from person to person. And even a futile situation could be irretrievable for some people. Like, I once read in news where a woman demanded divorce because her husband used to switch off the fan at night. So, instead of making flexible laws, proper & mature counseling should be provided to the couples.”

While Himanshu seems to be against considering irretrievable breakdown of marriage as a ground for divorce, Tanuj Mitra, a Kolkata resident, is of the opposite views. Tanuj states, “What I feel is that granting divorce on grounds of irretrievable breakdown of marriage should be flexible enough and justice should prevail without the mandatory 18-month separation. The top court should override the legislative will irrespective of government proposals. Since it’s a pro-Hindutva government, it will look to preserve the marriage in the set parameters of the Hindu Marriage Act and might not introduce any such legislature. As per my view, the waiting period should be curtailed and the SC should exercise its power on granting absolute justice. Sending the divorce cases to family courts will only leave the case as well as the panel perplexed as human beings are complex individuals.”

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For Plea Against Polygamy Supreme Court Takes Centre’s Response

personal laws must meet the test of constitutional validity and constitutional morality

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India. Flickr

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea that challenged the constitutional validity of the practice of polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ among Muslims in India.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued the notice to the Centre and tagged the plea with similar petitions pending before it.

The fresh plea filed by Women Resistance Committee Chairperson Nazia Ilahi Khan, a practicing advocate at the Calcutta High Court, has challenged the practice of polygamy, ‘nikah halala’, ‘nikah mutah’ (temporary marriage among Shias) and ‘nikah misyar’ (short-term marriage among Sunnis) on the grounds that these were violative of the Constitution’s Articles 14, 15 and 21.

Under ‘nikah halala’, if a Muslim woman after divorce by her husband three times on different instances, wants to go back to him, she has to marry another person and then divorce the second husband to get re-married to her first husband.

“Declare the dissolution of the Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution in so far as it fails to secure for the Indian Muslim women the protection from bigamy which has been statutorily secured for Indian women from other religions,” said her plea filed through advocate V.K. Biju.

The apex court has been hearing pleas filed by Sameena Begum, Nafisa Khan, Moullium Mohsin and BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay on the issue.

Article 14 guarantees equality before law, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and Article 21 guarantees protection of life and personal liberty.

Telling the court that though different religious communities are governed by different personal laws, Upadhyay had contended that “personal laws must meet the test of constitutional validity and constitutional morality in as much as they cannot be violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21”.

Pointing to the “appalling” affect of polygamy and other such practices on the Muslim women, senior counsel Mohan Parasaran had earlier told the apex court that the 2017 judgment holding instant ‘triple talaq’ as unconstitutional had left these two issues open and did not address them.

Polygamy, Man along with his 5 wives
Polygamy, Man along with his 5 wives. Flickr

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar (since retired), by a majority judgment in 2017, had said: “Keeping in view the factual aspect in the present case, as also the complicated questions that arise for consideration in this case (and, in the other connected cases), at the very outset, it was decided to limit the instant consideration to ‘talaq-e-biddat’ or triple talaq.

Also read: Goa Common Civil Code forbids neither Oral Divorce nor Polygamy among Muslims: Governor

“Other questions raised in the connected writ petitions, such as polygamy and ‘nikah halala’ (and other allied matters), would be dealt with separately. The determination of the present controversy may, however, coincidentally render an answer even to the connected issues.” (IANS)