The Supreme Court on Monday said it will examine the constitutional validity of practices such as polygamy and nikah halala among Muslims. It has asked the Centre and the Law Commission to make their stance on abolishing the two practices clear, PTI reported.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Monday observed that the five-judge Constitution bench that heard the triple talaq case in 2017 and abolished the practice calling it unconstitutional had kept the issues of polygamy and nikah halala open.
The chief justice, along with Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, have now said a new five-judge Constitution bench would be formed to decide if these practices are constitutional.
Muslim men are allowed to have four wives. The practice of nikah halala bars a man from remarrying his former wife unless she has married another man, consummated that marriage and divorced him. The woman is also expected to observe a separation period called Iddat before she reconciles with her first husband.
The bench was hearing three petitions that challenged the two practices saying they violated the Right to Equality and gender justice.
In a plea filed on March 14, the petitioner asked how the Muslim personal law rendered Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code – marrying again during the lifetime of husband or wife – inapplicable to Muslims, and how no married woman from the community could file a complaint against her husband for bigamy, The Indian Express reported.
“This is in blatant contravention of Articles 14 (equality before law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution,” the petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said. “The practice of polygamy is neither harmonious with the modern principles of human rights and gender equality, nor an integral part of Islamic faith.”
Another petitioner from Hyderabad said that while Muslim law allowed polygamy, the same permission was not extended to women. The petitioner said this violated the fundamental rights of Muslim women, The Times of India reported.