The Delhi High Court, on Monday, 2 May, sought the Centre's response to a plea aiming to declare bigamy or polygamy by a Muslim husband without the prior written consent of the existing wife or wives and arrangements for her well-being as unconstitutional and illegal.
Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla were hearing a 28-year-old woman's petition filed as public interest litigation (PIL). The petitioner also sought the framing of laws for compulsory registration of Muslim marriages, reported PTI.
The woman, Reshma, said that she and her husband had married in 2019 and have an 11-month-old child.
The woman claimed that her husband is stated to be "planning to divorce her" and marry another woman without her consent or making arrangements for her and their child's maintenance.
She also claimed that "bigamy or polygamy by a Muslim husband is permitted under Shariat laws only in exceptional circumstances" and needs to be regulated for the benefit of Muslim women.
'Second Marriage Permitted Under Special Circumstances'
She argued that "bigamy or polygamy without the consent of the existing wife and securing her well-being is unconstitutional, anti-Shariat, illegal, arbitrary, harsh, inhuman, and barbaric" and also contradicts Articles 14, 15, 21, and 25 of the Constitution.
"Even in countries governed by Shariah (Islamic) law, the second marriage is permitted under special circumstances, such as an illness of the first wife or her inability to bear children. In these cases, with the first wife's consent, a man may marry again, and this is referred to as polygamy, a subset of polygamous marriages," said the petition filed through lawyer Bajrang Vats.
"The Holy Quran permits a Muslim man to marry more than one woman at a time (up to a maximum of four) but does not encourage such behaviour. Polygamy is only permitted in certain circumstances, such as when the death of another man has left his wife with no other means of support," it added.
The petitioner stated that polygamy was permitted as a part of social duty and charitable motives and was neither mandatory nor encouraged. She further stated that the Holy Quran says that those men who take multiple wives have an obligation to treat them equally.
"It is unfortunate that regressive practices derogatory to women, who constitute one half of the Indian population, are being followed, propagated, and encouraged in the name of religion. Such practice, regressive to rights of women and which directly come into conflict with the Constitutional and Fundamental Rights of citizens cannot be encouraged," the petition has said.
The matter would be heard next on 23 August.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS.)