Supreme Court Decides to Review Muslim Personal Law to End Gender Inequality

The hon’ble Supreme Court decided to study the Muslim Personal Laws to exclude the provisions that discriminates Muslim women. It is a known fact that Muslim women are the victims of polygamy and also the talaq system prevailing among Muslim community. Though such a decision will be a controversy in the society, such a reform is essential to advance the Muslim community. The bench consisted of Justice A K Goel and Justice A R Dave who requested Justice H L Dattu, the hon’ble Chief Justice of India to constitute a bench and discuss the matter to ensure gender equality in the laws that govern Muslims. Such change should be in parity with the provisions of the Constitution of India.

The bench also stated that safeguards against divorce opposed to law is absent and provisions that restrict the second marriage by husband during the subsistence of the first marriage that denies self-respect and security of the Muslim woman is to be included. By citing previous judgment of the Supreme Court the bench also said that Marriage laws and succession has not become the part of Muslim religion and therefore it is necessary to change laws with the change of time. In addition, the judges also scrutinized the judgments of the Supreme Court that deals with gender inequalities in Muslim law and notice was issued to Attorney General and National Legal Services Authority with an order to submit the report by 23rd November.

In India, we have personal laws each governing different religions that deals with marriage, adoption, succession, maintenance etc. In 1950, Hindu laws were amended and changes were introduced. But there is a drastic move to make alterations to the Muslim laws that are alleged to be leveled against woman. Yet another discrimination is the need for two female witnesses to equalize one male witness in marriages. Polygamy is against moral values and can be abolished or changes may be effected like that of Sati. The bench was expressing its view by quoting a judgment of 2003. Tahir Mahmood, Islamic scholar and former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities also favored the opinion given by the apex court.

Adv. Jewel Panicker