Supreme court issues notice to center challenging the practice of polygamy & nikah halala

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Seven month after striking down the practice of triple talaq, the Supreme Court on Monday referred a challenge to the practice of polygamy and nikah halala under the Muslim personal law to be heard by a Constitution bench.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on the issue. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has also been asked to assist in the matter. Nikah halala requires a female divorcee to marry someone else, consummate the marriage and then get a divorce to remarry her previous husband.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions, including one by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, advocate and BJP leader, claiming that the provisions of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, in so far as it recognizes and validates the “sinful form” of nikah halala and polygamy, violates the fundamental rights of married Muslim women and offends Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India.

According to the petition, a complete ban on Polygamy and Nikah-Halala has long been need of the hour as it renders Muslim wives extremely insecure, vulnerable and infringes their fundamental rights. Equality should be the basis of all personal law since the Constitution envisages equality, justice and dignity for women.

It was further claimed that the practice of polygamy and nikah halala had no basis in the Quran and had been banned/restricted by various Islamic countries.

On 22 August, in a 3-2 majority verdict, the top court declared the Islamic practice of triple talaq unconstitutional and struck down the age-old practice under which a Muslim man could divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq thrice.

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