Supreme Court concerned over Muslim women facing arbitrary divorce

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has expressed concern over Muslim women facing arbitrary divorces and second marriages of their husbands even as their first marriages were subsisting.

Expressing concern on the issue of “gender discrimination… which concerns the rights of Muslim women”, the apex court bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the issue of rights of Muslim women against arbitrary divorce surfaced number of times but was not addressed.

The court said in its judgment pronounced on October 16 that there was no safeguard “against arbitrary divorce and second marriage by her husband during currency of the first marriage, resulting in denial of dignity and security to her”.

The apex court said this while noting the submissions made by lawyers on the question whether the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 would have retrospective effect.

Directing for a separate public interest litigation to address the issue, the bench issued notice to the Attorney General and National Legal Services Authority, returnable on November 23.

Issuing the notice and directing for the registration of the PIL, the court said, “Although the issue was raised before this court in the case of ‘Ahmedabad Women Action Group vs Union of India’, this court did not go into the merits of the discrimination with the observation that the issue involved state policy to be dealt with by the legislature.”

The court judgment noted that it was observed that the challenge to Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, was pending before the Constitution Bench and there was no reason to multiply proceedings on such an issue.

The court noted that the matter needed consideration by the apex court as the issue related not merely to a policy matter but to the fundamental rights of women under Articles 14, 15 and 21 and international conventions and covenants.