Personal Laws in India

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Personal Laws in India

Constitution and the liberty of Personal Laws

The people of India belong to different religions and faiths. They are governed by different sets of personal laws in respect of matters relating to family affairs, i.e., marriage, divorce, succession, etc.

Laws related to Marriages 

Law relating to marriage and/or divorce has been codified in different enactments applicable to people of different religions. A list is 
  • The Converts' Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866
  • The Indian Divorce Act, 1869
  • The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872
  • The Kazis Act, 1880
  • The Anand Marriage Act, 1909
  • The Indian Succession Act, 1925
  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
  • The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936
  • The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954
  • The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  • The Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 and
  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

Special Marriage Act, 1954

It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but also applies to the citizens of India domiciled in Jammu and Kashmir. Key aspects are :
  1. Persons governed by this Act can specifically register marriage under the said Act even though they are of different religious faiths. 
  2. Marriage celebrated under any other form can also be registered under the Special Marriage Act, if it satisfies the requirements of the Act. 
  3. The section 4(b) (iii) of the Act was amended to omit the words "or epilepsy.'' Sections 36 and 38 have been amended to provide that an application for alimony pendente lite (a court ordered temporary alimony, while an action for separation or divorce is pending). 

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

It extends to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, applies also to Hindus domiciled in territories to which the Act extends and those who are outside the said territories. Key aspects are :
  1. It applies to Hindus (in any of its forms or development) and also to Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and also those who are not Muslims, Christians, Parsis or Jews by religion. 
  2. It does not apply to members of any scheduled tribes unless the Central Government by notification in the official Gazette otherwise directs.
  3. Provisions in regard to divorce are contained in section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act and section 27 of the Special Marriage Act. Common ground on which divorce can be sought by a husband or a wife under these Acts fall under these broad heads: Adultery, desertion, cruelty, unsoundness of mind, venereal disease, leprosy, mutual consent and being not heard of as alive for seven years.

Christian Marriage Act 1872

Provisions relating to marriage and divorce are contained in the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and in section 10 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 respectively. Key aspects are :

  • The husband can seek divorce on grounds of adultery on the part of his wife and the wife can seek divorce on the ground that the husband has converted to another religion and has gone through marriage with another woman or has been guilty of Incestuous adultery, Bigamy with adultery, Marriage with another woman with adultery, rape, sodomy or bestiality, Adultery coupled with such cruelty as without adultery would have entitled her to a divorce, a mensa etoro (a system of divorce created by the Roman Catholic Church equivalent to judicial separation on grounds of adultery, perverse practices, cruelty, heresy and apostasy) and Adultery coupled with desertion without reasonable excuse for two years or more.

Indian Divorce Act, 1869 

Comprehensive amendments were made through the Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act, 2001 (No. 51 of 2001) to remove discriminatory provisions against women in the matter of Divorce. Sections 36 and 41 of the Act were amended by the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 2001 to provide that an application for alimony pendente lite or the maintenance and education of minor children be disposed of within 60 days from the date of service of notice on the respondent.

Muslim Personal Law

Marriages are governed by the Mohammedan Law prevalent in the country. As regards divorce, i.e., Talaq, a Muslim wife has a much restricted right to dissolve her marriage. Unwritten and traditional law tried to ameliorate her position by permitting her to see dissolution under the following forms: 
  1. Talaq-I-Tafwid: This is a form of delegated divorce. According to this, the husband delegates his right to divorce in a marriage contract which may stipulate, inter alia, on his taking another wife, the first wife has a right to divorce him
  2. Khula: this is a dissolution of agreement between the parties to marriage on the wife's giving some consideration to the husband for her release from marriage ties. Terms are a matter of bargain and usually take the form of the wife giving up her mehr or a portion of it, and
  3. Mubarat: this is divorce by mutual consent.
The Supreme Court of India through its August 2017 judgement nullified the practice of instant talaq, or triple talaq, or teen talaq.

The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939

A Muslim wife has been given the right to seek dissolution of her marriage on these grounds:
  1. Whereabouts of the husband have not been known for a period of four years
  2. Husband is not maintaining her for a period of two years
  3. Imprisonment of husband for a period of seven years or more
  4. Failure on the part of husband to perform his marital obligations, without a reasonable cause, for a period of three years
  5. Impotency of husband
  6. Two-year long insanity
  7. Suffering from leprosy or virulent venereal disease'
  8. Marriage took place before she attained the age of 15 years and not consummated and
  9. Cruelty

The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 

It governs the matrimonial relations of Parsis. The word 'Parsi' is defined in the Act as a Parsi Zoroastrian, and a Zoroastrian being a person professing the Zoroastrian religion (a racial significance). Key aspects are:
  1. Every marriage as well as divorce under this Act is required to be registered in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the Act. 
  2. Failure to fulfil requirements on that behalf does not make marriage invalid. 
  3. The Act provides only for monogamy. 
  4. By the Parsi Marriage and Divorce (Amendment) Act, 1988, scope of certain provisions of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 have been enlarged so as to bring them in line with the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. 
  5. Sections 39 and 49 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 were amended by the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act, 2001 to provide that an application for alimony pendent lite or the maintenance and education of minor children be disposed of within 60 days from the date of service of notice on the wife or the husband as the case may be.

Laws for the Jews 

There is no codified law in India. Even today, they are governed by their religious laws. Jews do not regard marriage as a civil contract, but as a relation between two persons involving very sacred duties. Marriage can be dissolved through courts on grounds of adultery or cruelty. Marriaes are monogamous.

Laws regarding Child Marriage

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, from 1 October 1978, provides that marriage age for males will be 21 years and for females 18 years.

Laws regarding Adoption

Although there is no general law of adoption, it is permitted by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 amongst Hindus and by custom amongst a few numerically insignificant categories of persons. Key aspects are: 
  1. Since adoption is legal affiliation of a child, it forms the subject matter of personal law. 
  2. Muslims, Christians and Parsis have no adoption laws and have to approach the court under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. 
  3. Muslims, Christians and Parsis can take a child under the said Act only under foster care. Once a child under foster care becomes major, he is free to break away all this connections. 
  4. Such a child does not have the legal right of inheritance. Foreigners, who want to adopt Indian children, have to approach the court under the aforesaid Act.
  5. Hindu law relating to adoption has been amended and codified into the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, under which a male or female Hindu having legal capacity, can take a son or daughter in adoption. 
  6. In dealing with the question of guardianship of a minor child, as in other spheres of family law, there is no uniform law. 
  7. Hindu Law, Muslim Law and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 are three distinct legal systems which are prevalent. A guardian may be a natural guardian, testamentary guardian or a guardian appointed by the court. In deciding the question of guardianship two distinct things have to be taken into account-person of the minor and his property. Often the same person is not entrusted with both.

Guardianship Laws

The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 

  1. It has codified laws of Hindus relating to minority and guardianship. 
  2. As in the case of uncodified law, it has upheld the superior right of father. 
  3. It lays down that a child is a minor till the age of 18 years. 
  4. Natural guardian for both boys and unmarried girls is first the father and then the mother. 
  5. Prior right of mother is recognised only for the custody of children below five. 
  6. In case of illegitimate children, the mother has a better claim than the putative father. 
  7. The act makes no distinction between the person of the minor and his property and therefore guardianship implies control over both.

Under the Muslim Law, the father enjoys a dominant position. It also makes a distinction between guardianship and custody. For guardianship, which has usually reference to guardianship of property, according to Sunnis, the father is preferred and in his absence his executor. If not executor has been appointed by the father, the guardianship passes on to the paternal grandfather to take over responsibility and not that of the executor. Both schools, however, agree that father while alive is the sole guardian. Mother is not recognised as a natural guardian even after the death of the father.

As regards rights of a natural guardian, there is no doubt that father's right extends both to property and person. 
  1. Even when mother has the custody of minor child. Father's general right of supervision and control remains. Father can, however, appoint mother as a testamentary guardian. Thus, though mother may not be recognised as natural guardian, there is no objection to her being appointed under the father's will.
  2. Muslim law recognises that mother's right to custody of minor children (Hizanat) is an absolute right. Even the father cannot deprive her of it. 
  3. Misconduct is the only condition which can deprive the mother of this right. As regards the age at which the right of mother to custody terminates, the Shia school holds that mother's right to the Hizanat is only during the period of rearing which ends when the child completes the age of two, whereas Hanafi school extends the period till the minor son has reached the age of seven. 
  4. In case of girls, Shia law upholds mother's right till the girl reaches the age of seven and Hanafi school till she attains puberty.
The general law relating to guardians and wards is contained in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. It clearly lays down that father's right is primary and no other person can be appointed unless the father is found unfit. This Act also provides that the court must take into consideration the welfare of the child while appointing a guardian under the Act.

Maintenance related laws

Obligation of a husband to maintain his wife arises out of the status of the marriage. Right to maintenance forms a part of the personal law.

  1. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, (2 of 1974), right of maintenance extends not only to the wife and dependent children, but also to indigent parents and divorced wives. 
  2. Claims of the wife, etc., however, depends on the husband having sufficient means. Claim of maintenance for all dependent persons was limited to Rs. 500 per month. 
  3. This limit was removed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2001 (No. 50 of 2001). Inclusion of the right of maintenance under the Code of Criminal Procedure has the advantage of making the remedy both speedy and cheap. 
  4. However, divorced wives who have received money payable under the customary personal law are not entitled to claim maintenance under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  5. Under Hindu Law, the wife has an absolute right to claim maintenance from her husband. But she loses her right if she deviates from the path of chastity. 
  6. Her right to maintenance is codified in the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. In assessing the amount of maintenance, the court takes into account various factors like position and liabilities of the husband. 
  7. It also judges whether the wife is justified in living apart from husband. Justifiable reasons are spelt out in the Act. Maintenance pendente lite (pending the suit) and even expenses of a matrimonial suit will be borne by either, husband or wife, if the other spouse has no independent income for his or her support. The same principle will govern payment of permanent maintenance.
  8. Under the Muslim Law, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 protects rights of Muslim women who have been divorced by or have obtained divorce from their husbands and provides for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This Act, inter alia, provides that a divorced Muslim woman shall be entitled to:
    • Reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid to her within the iddat period by her former husband
    • Where she herself maintains children born to her before or after her divorce, a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid by her former husband for a period of two years from the respective dates of birth of such children
    • An amount equal to the sum of mehr or dower agreed to be paid to her at the time of her marriage or at any time thereafter according to the Muslim Law and
    • All property given to her before or at the time of marriage or after her marriage by her relatives or friends or by husband or any relatives of the husband or his friends.
    • In addition, the Act also provides that where a divorced Muslim woman is unable to maintain herself after the period of iddat, the magistrate shall order directing such of her relatives as would be entitled to inherit her property on her death according to the Muslim Law and to pay such reasonable and fair maintenance to her as he may determine fit and proper, having regard to the needs of the divorced woman, standard of life enjoyed by her during her marriage and means of such relatives and such maintenance shall be payable by such relatives in proportion to the size of their inheritance of her property and at such periods as he may specify in his order.
    • Where such divorced woman has children, the magistrate shall order only such children to pay maintenance to her and in the event of any such children being unable to pay such maintenance, the magistrate shall order parents of such divorced woman to pay maintenance to her.
    • In the absence of such relatives or where such relatives are not in a position to maintain her, the magistrate may direct State Wakf Board established under Section 13 of the Wakf Act, 1995 functioning in the area in which the woman resides, to pay such maintenance as determined by him.

The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 

It recognises the right of wife to maintenance-both alimony pendente lite and permanent alimony. The maximum amount that can be decreed by the court as alimony during the time a matrimonial suit is pending in court, is one-fifth of the husband's net income. In fixing the quantum as permanent maintenance, the court will determine what is just, bearing in mind the ability of husband to pay, wife's own assets and conduct of the parties. The order will remain in force as long as wife remains chaste and unmarried.

The Indian Divorce Act, 1869 

It, among other things, governs maintenance rights of a Christian wife. The provisions are the same as those under the Parsi Law and the same considerations are applied in granting maintenance, both alimony pendente lite and permanent maintenance.

The Indian Succession Act, 1925

The object of the Act was to consolidate the large number of laws which were in existence at that time. Laws governing succession to Muslims and Hindus were excluded from the purview of the Act. 

While consolidating the law in respect of succession, two schemes, one relating to succession to property of persons like Indian Christians, Jews and persons married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the other relating to succession rights or Parsis, were adopted.

  1. In the first scheme, applying to those other than Parsis, in the case of a person dying intestate (without a will) leaving behind a widow and lineal descendants, the widow would be entitled to a fixed share of one-third of property and lineal descendants shall be entitled to the remaining two-third. 
  2. This law was amended subsequently with the object of improving rights of widows and it was provided that where the intestate dies leaving behind his widows and it was provided that where the intestate dies leaving behind his widow and no lineal descendant and the net value of the estate does not exceed Rs 5,000, the widow would be entitled to the whole of this property. 
  3. Where the net value of the estate exceeds Rs 5,000 she is entitled to charge a sum of Rs. 5,000 with interest at four per cent payment and in the residue, she is entitled to her share. 
  4. The Act imposes no restriction on the power of a person to will away his property.
  5. Under the second scheme, the Act provides for Parsi intestate succession. By the Indian Succession (Amendment) Act, 1991 (51 of 1991), the Act was amended to provide equal shares for both sons and daughters in their parental properties, irrespective of the fact that it was that of the father or that of the mother. 
  6. It also enables the Parsis to bequeath their property to religious or charitable purposes, etc., without any restrictions. In effect the amended law provides that where a Parsi dies intestate leaving behind a widow or widower as the case may be, and children, the property shall be divided so that the widow or widower and each child receives equal share. 
  7. Further, where a Parsi dies leaving behind one or both parents in addition to children, or widow widower and children, the property shall be so divided that the parent or each of the parents shall receive a share equal to half the share of each child.
This Act was amended by the Indian Succession (Amendment) Act, 2002. 

It was felt that section 32 of the principal Act is discriminatory to widows and as such the proviso to section 32 was omitted to remove discrimination in this regard. Section 213 was also amended by this amending Act to make Christians at par with other communities.

The law relating to intestate succession among Hindus is codified in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (30 of 1956). It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The remarkable features of the Act are the recognition of the right of women to inherit property of an intestate equally with men and abolition of the life estate of female heirs.

A vast majority of Muslims in India follow Hanafi doctrines of Sunni law. Courts presume that Muslims are governed by Hanafi law unless it is established to be the contrary. Though there are many features in common between Shia and Sunni schools, yet there are differences in some respects. Sunni law regards Koranic verses of inheritance as an addendum to pre-Islamic customary law and preserves the superior position of male agnates. Unlike Hindu and Christian laws, Muslim law restricts a person's right of testation. A Muslim can bequeath only one-third of his estate. A bequest to a stranger is valid without the consent of heirs if it does not exceed a third of the estate, but a bequest to an heir without the consent of other heirs is invalid. Consent of heirs to a bequest must be secured after the succession has opened and any consent given to a bequest during the lifetime of the testator can be retracted after his death. Shia law allows Muslims the freedom of bequest within the disposable third.

Views of Prof. Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR

Prof. Faizan Mustafa is a renowned law teacher who is presently working as the Vice- Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad which is India’s leading National Law University. His wide-ranging views on the complex matter are a great source of learning and transparency. Here are some :

  • FIVE INSIGHTS Muslims are annoyed with my views for five reasons. 
    • Firstly, I have said Muslim Personal Law is not fully divine. 
    • Secondly, Muslim Personal Law is not ‘law’ within the meaning of Article 13 of Indian Constitution. 
    • Thirdly, I have consistently maintained that Quran is not book of law. 
    • Fourthly, I do favour Uniform Civil Code, of course, in a piecemeal manner and 
    • Fifthly, I have been saying that Muslim Personal Law is not Islamic Law but Hanafi Law.
  • COMPLEX The Muslim Personal Law is a complex field, and at the centre of longstanding public debates on the feasibility of a Uniform Civil Code in India. Under Muslim Personal Law, we deal with a constantly evolving field that has undergone gradual reforms through statutory changes and judicial interpretation since the late colonial period. Religious sources need to give way to secular values, especially when they have entrenched discriminatory practices. 
  • RELATIVE INTERPRETATION We must remember that religious texts from another age cannot always be judged in their entirety through the lens of modern sensibilities. Like the broader course of intellectual history, we must reject the negative practices associated with organised religion but respect the liberty of others to accentuate the positive elements of their respective faith. Right to follow one’s culture is a delicate matter. Tamil Nadu protests on jallikattu do demonstrate that law reforms from above (by the Supreme Court) would be resisted if proper groundwork for the acceptability of reforms is not done. I was myself in Chennai yesterday and have seen the mood of the people. Electronic media did not cover the slogans which were raised. They can be compared with JNU slogans of last year. Right to cultural relativism is a sensitive issue and extreme right must show sensitivity in this matter.
  • SAUDIS ARE ANGRY! In Riyadh, few radical Muslims from Deoband School got angry with my statement of Quran not being a book of law. My position is Quran is paramount source of Islamic law and Muslim jurists have to extract law from it. But in doing so, they need to take into account other sources as well. Quran, in itself, is not a book of law like an enacted Code legislated by Parliament i.e., Indian Penal Code, Indian Contract Act etc. Its verses are not Sections of a Code. As a divine policy, Quran does not contain ‘law’ in the strict sense of the term. ‘Law’ has, in fact, been deliberately concealed by God himself within the legally imprecise and sometimes ambiguous sacred texts. ‘Law’ in Islam is to be extracted from the sources of Islamic Law. Quran is not law, but source of law. This extraction is human activity and is called ‘ijtihad’, which means ‘endeavour’ or ‘self-exertion’. In fact Sharia is based on Divine instructions called ‘Wahi’. Law, on the other hand, does rely on human reason or human speculations called ‘Aql’. Other than Quran and Sunna, all other sources of Islamic law are based on human reasoning such as Ijma (consensus amongst learned), Qiyas (analogical deductions), Istihsan (juristic preference), Istisilah (public interest) and ijtihad (juristic reasoning. Thus, jurists discover ‘law’ in Islam.
  • LAW MAKING = PRIVATE ENTERPRISE IN ISLAM Law making is indeed a private enterprise in Islam. Jurists intervene between God and State. We may or may not agree with them. ‘Shariah’ bears a stranger affinity with revelation (divinity), whereas Fiqh (Muslim Personal Law) is mainly product of human reason. Islamic fiqh is, thus, a rational endeavour primarily based on speculative human reasoning. Muslim Personal Law is based on the interpretations given by various jurists and due to the disagreement amongst jurists i.e., Ikhtilaq, we have various schools. Most Muslims in Indian are Sunnis and follow the Hanafi school. Thus, Muslim Personal Law in India is largely based on the jurisprudence of Abu Hanifa. The most authoritative text of this school is Hedaya, a commentary of book Bidaya written by Burhan al-Din Marghinani who lived in Marghinan in Uzbekistan and Fatwae-Alamgiri, which was written on the basis of discussions amongst 40 Ulemas during the reign of Aurangzeb. 
  • REFORM IS POSSIBLE  Thus, possibilities of reforms in law are very much there if those are tactfully undertaken. Muslim fundamentalists are not able to appreciate this distinction between ‘Sharia’ and ‘Law’. They use both the terms as interchangbly. The Shariat (Muslim Personal Law) Application Act, 1937, is also responsible for this confusion. Most Muslims consider Muslim Personal Law as divine and thus, oppose any change in it. More than 3 crore Muslims have signed declarations opposing any change in Muslim Personal Law. I am told Personal Law Board has no place to store 4/18 these declarations. Muslims are to be educated about the rich human content in Muslim Personal Law to make them agree to reforms.
  • INDIA A HUGE NATION - BLANKET UCC A BAD IDEA We are a huge country with great diversities. We have given constitutional protection to tribal practices. Even our criminal law has not been extended to Nagaland. ‘Personal Laws’ as a subject of legislation is in concurrent list and thus both Centre as well as states can make laws. Thus, uniformity in personal laws was not intended by the framers of the Constitution, 
  • HINDUS DON'T HAVE ONE LAW It is a myth that Hindus are governed by one law. Similarly, all Muslims are not governed by one law. In fact, some Muslims are still governed by unreformed Shastric Hindu law. Having one law in itself is not something very great. In USA, even criminal law differs from state to state. Are ‘laws’ just is the moot question? For me, ‘just code’ is more important than uniform code. To me, even different laws are acceptable if they are just and ensure some kind of uniformity of rights.
  • UCC IN STEPWISE MANNER IS GOOD As far as the Uniform Civil Code is concerned, I have consistently maintained that I favour a transition towards the same in a piecemeal manner. This position is different from both that of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board as well as some Muslim female interveners in the Supreme Court. For instance, the BMMA, which is leading current campaign for reforms in Muslim law, is opposed to the Uniform Civil Code. Even the present Central Government, in its affidavit before the Supreme Court, has not explicitly mentioned the enactment of a Uniform Civil Code. The Central Government, too, has advocated just for the adoption of Quranic procedure of divorce in its affidavit. In fact, the Modi government in 2015 in the Kerala High Court clearly stated in its affidavit that it is the policy of the government not to interfere in any community’s personal laws unless a demand is made for reforms from cross sections of such community. 
  • NDA GOVT ALSO BACKED OFF It is my grievance that no government has so far presented any blueprint of the Uniform Civil Code. The NDA government, headed by Atal BihariVajpayee, did abandon the Uniform Civil Code to stay in power. Who has the courage to call Vajpayee and Advani as hidden Islamist? We need to see acceptability of the Uniform Civil Code within the Hindu community. Are they willing to accept Mehar or Dower payable by husband to wife, agree to deletion of kanyadaan, pre-nuptial contract, give up income tax exemption under Hindu Joint Family, accept restrictions on the power to make will etc. In the UCC, good provisions of all laws are to be taken. I give no importance to the civil code prepared by some individuals in their private capacity. These people have no idea about the distinction between Criminal Law and Civil Law, and have mixed up even citizenship with civil code. The whole country ignored this code. 
  • EUROPE AND US HAVE UCC The Uniform Civil Code is there in Europe and United States. Muslims live happily there. Goa, too, has a kind of UCC, yet Muslims are having no problem there. The UCC will not adversely affect Islam.
  • TRIPLE TALAQ SETTLED ALREADY Triple divorce is valid under the Hanafi law. What is Hanafi law, but the opinion of Hanafi jurists. A writ court can declare a ‘law’ as unconstitutional not opinion of experts. Since opinion of jurists cannot be law under Article 13, it cannot be challenged as unconstitutional. Moreover, the current debate even in the Supreme Court is unnecessary as in 2002 itself, the apex court had held in Shamimara case that triple divorce does not dissolve marriage. Similarly, demands of banning triple divorce by the Supreme Court are misplaced, as ‘banning’ would invariably mean ‘prohibiting’ some conduct generally through the instrumentality of ‘criminal law’. Strangely, even Muslim Personal Law Board senior officials, too, are singing the tone of imprisonment for the one who gives triple divorce. 
  • LIMITS OF JUDICIARY Judiciary cannot create new crimes. We need an Act of Parliament to make an act criminal. If government is interested in reforms, it can bring in a law banning triple divorce. I am not opposed to it. But will it work is the million dollar question. I have clearly written that only one divorce should be given after efforts of reconciliation through arbitration have failed. This is exactly what the government’s position is in the on-going case in the Supreme Court. I am for divorce by mutual consent after efforts of reconciliation and arbitration do not yield any results. If divorce is sought by the wife, even triple divorce may be fine to give her quick relief. 
  • BEING PRACTICAL Sometimes, women do face such hostile environment in their matrimonial homes that asking her to stay there for three months or more would be absolutely against their interest. I am of the opinion that Quran restricts men’s right to divorce and it must pass through arbitration etc. But if wife wants divorce, no need to make efforts of reconciliation. Her right to Khula (divorce) is absolute. She need not give any reasons. Similarly, if there is mutual consent to part, even triple divorce is fine. Judicial divorce is time consuming and goes against the interest of women. Even the Supreme Court’s latest order on Christian divorce is problematic as it will not serve the cause of women but lead to pendency of cases. Lawyers alone will benefit. 
  • CRUELTY For women getting divorce in some situations is better as it will give them freedom from a cruel husband. After divorce, they would be free to marry anyone and start their life afresh. This order is not applicable to Muslims as they do not have any law like the Indian Divorce Act. In my view, divorce should not be either too easy or too cumbersome or difficult. Pre-nuptial agreement with details of divorce procedure, and rights and liabilities on divorce is the best option.

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PT's IAS Academy: Personal Laws in India
Personal Laws in India
A comprehensive listing of personal laws in India.
PT's IAS Academy
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