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Kerala HC's decision on Muslim women's right to extra-judicial divorce challenged in SC

Kerala HC's decision on Muslim women's right to extra-judicial divorce challenged in SC

In a significant case, the Kerala High Court's groundbreaking decision, which overturned a nearly five-decade-old judgment restricting Muslim women from utilizing extra-judicial means to dissolve marriages, has been brought before the Supreme Court. 

A bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Sanjay Kumar has issued a notice in the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed against the High Court's 2021 ruling, while also condoning the delay in the process.

The ruling in question, delivered by a bench consisting of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice CS Dias, marked a pivotal shift in the legal landscape concerning Muslim women's rights. It granted Muslim women the agency to seek "Khula" or Reverse Talaaq by returning the dower to their husbands, thereby challenging traditional norms that had long deprived them of such autonomy.

This significant legal precedent stemmed from a specific matrimonial case presented before the courts. The petitioner, a young woman identified as 'Y' to safeguard her privacy, had approached the Family Court, Thalassery, seeking a decree of divorce under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act. 'Y' cited grounds of cruelty and impotence against her husband, identified as 'X', who subsequently appealed the decree before the High Court.

The Kerala High Court, in its deliberation, not only addressed the merits of the case at hand but delved deeper into the broader question of whether legislative intent supported the restriction on extra-judicial divorces for Muslim women. The judges observed a historical pattern of patriarchal norms perpetuating injustices against Muslim women, despite constitutional guarantees of equality under Article 14.

Central to the High Court's decision was a critical examination of a precedent established in the 1972 case of K.C. Moyin v. Nafeesa & Others. This landmark judgment had effectively denied Muslim women the right to initiate extra-judicial divorces, basing its rationale on the provisions of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act. However, the Kerala High Court declared the law laid down in the K.C. Moyin case as obsolete and not in alignment with constitutional principles.

The judgment underscored the imperative to recognize and uphold the rights of Muslim women to seek divorce, echoing principles enshrined in the Holy Quran, which advocate for equality in the dissolution of marriages for both men and women. The Court's decision not only rectified historical injustices but also highlighted the urgent need to address systemic biases within societal structures.

While the High Court's ruling marked a significant victory for gender justice, the decision now faces scrutiny before the Supreme Court. The appeal filed against it prompts a critical examination of legal principles and societal attitudes towards gender equality within the Muslim community.

Case: X vs. Y,

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) Diary No(s). 11727/2023.

Click to read/download order.

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