Can the Relatives of the Husband Attract Prosecution in Case of Triple Talaq?

The Supreme Court of India has recently made a judgement. It lays down that the relatives of the husband cannot be kept as accused under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act. The Court has laid down that only the husband can pronounce Triple Talaq. Thus, the ambit of prosecution will also get confined towards the husband. 

Introduction

Triple Talaq was a form of practice within the members of Sunni Islam. Here, a Muslim man could divorce his wife by saying the world talaq thrice. This practice falls under the ambit of Islamic jurisprudence and divorce within the Hanafi school. It is one of the four major Sunni schools relating to Islamic jurisprudence also known as Fiqh. The practice of Talaq was banned under the decision laid down under Shayara Bano vs Union of India. Here, the Court held that the practice of Talaq was unconstitutional. Following the judgement, a new Act known as the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act came into effect in 2019. It laid down certain rules for the protection of Muslim women within marriage. Recently, a case became introduced within the Kerala High Court. This was in relation to a case filed in the North Paravur police station within Kerala. 

Here, the complainant had filed a case against her husband and her mother-in-law. She accused them of engaging in the unconstitutional practice of Triple Talaq. This allegedly led to the divorce of the complainant. It was also alleged that the husband got married to another woman. Charges against the husband of the complainant and his mother ranging from Section 498-A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019.  A motion for anticipatory bail was moved in the Kerala High Court by the mother and son, but it was denied. 

The View of the Supreme Court

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An appeal for the granting of anticipatory bail was moved by the mother and the case got introduced into the Supreme Court. The case (Rahna Jalal vs. State of Kerala) was introduced to the bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud wherein the matter was studied. The Court had laid down that Sections 3 and 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 only related to the Muslim man who has pronounced talaq and not his mother or any other relatives. Thus, the ambit of the Act was redefined by the Court. 

An anticipatory bail was granted to the mother. The Court further held that there are no limitations to the anticipatory bail granted under the Act. But before granting the bail to the Muslim husband, it was also held that the Court which hears such matters must ensure that the married Muslim woman is also heard before the competent Court before the decision to grant bail . The confinement of the ambit of prosecution to the married Muslim husband got advocated. This is to protect the relatives from undue prosecution. This may arise from the actions of the married Muslim man. The Court has also reiterated the importance of the married Muslim woman. The Court also maintains that only the Muslim man who has pronounced talaq three times and divorced his wife should be prosecuted. 

The Impact of the Decision

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The debate surrounding the decision to ban the practice of Triple Talaq has raised a question. The question of how secularism must be viewed by the country. The move was seen by many as the start of the formation of a Uniform Civil Code. The question of whether the Indian form of secularism would become beneficial persists. It raises other questions of the interpretation of positive secularism within the country. The decision taken by the Supreme Court within the Rahna Jalal vs. State of Kerala case keeps the Rule of Law strictly in place within the country. The complicated relationship in allowing personal laws based on religion to exist within the country while maintaining the individual right of all the citizens within the country is a task that is not so easy. The practice of talaq is one that exists between a husband and his wife and does not involve any other members of his or her family. This was one of the major factors within the decision of the Court. 

The amalgamation of religious practices and the rule of law is something that has existed within the country. The existence of different personal laws based on religion is a monument to that fact. The Act which followed the decision laid down under the Shayara Bano judgement is another example wherein the personal laws laid down under the tenets of the religion have been amended to suit the ideals laid down under the Constitution of India. The decision laid down by the Court here will prove to be a monument on respecting the rights of the individual.

It also respects the rights of the associated religion. Although the appellant was released, the case made against her was not completely thrown away as the investigative officer was given the task of adhering to the complaint filed by the complainant initially in the police station. The allowing of anticipatory bail in the issues relating with the case involved in the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 will surely have a lasting impact on how such cases will be perceived by the judiciary and the government in the future. 

Conclusion

The right to life and liberty is a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens in India under the Constitution. The upholding of such ideals within the purview of the cases laid down would be extremely important in analyzing the future of such cases which deal with such meticulous issues.


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