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Madras High Court Grants Hindu Wife Permission to Perform Last Rites for Husband Who Converted to Islam

Madras High Court Grants Hindu Wife Permission to Perform Last Rites for Husband Who Converted to Islam

The Madras High Court has ruled in favor of allowing a Hindu wife to perform the final rituals for her husband. This decision follows her husband's conversion to Islam subsequent to his involvement in an extramarital affair with a Muslim woman, whom he later married.

The bench of Justice GR Swaminathan said that though "the man was no Kabir, yet his death had given rise to a serious dispute over his dead body," which was lying in the mortuary of a Government Hospital.

The court was approached by both the Hindu wife and the Muslim son of the deceased, each vying for custody of the man's body. The wife, citing her status as the lawful spouse, advocated for her right to perform the final rites. Conversely, the son, pointing to his and his mother's claim following the man's conversion to Islam before passing away, argued for their entitlement to conduct the last rituals.

The court mentioned that the deceased had indeed converted to Islam before his death. However, it also recognized that his marriage to the Muslim woman could not be legally recognized.

The court highlighted that the deceased, Balasubramanian, entered into a Hindu marriage with B. Shanthi in 1988, resulting in the birth of a girl child. Subsequently, he engaged in an extramarital relationship with Syed Ali Fatima and converted to Islam. Under his new identity as Anwar Hussain, he married Syed Ali Fatima according to Islamic traditions in 1999, leading to the birth of a son.

In 2017, Balasubramanian officially announced his conversion to Islam and adoption of the name Anwar Hussain through the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette, effective from May 10, 2016. Following this, he filed a petition before the family court requesting the dissolution of his marriage with Shanthi. In 2021, the family court granted his petition. However, Shanthi, discontented with the ruling, lodged an appeal. Upon reassessment, the Additional District Judge reversed the family court's decision.

It highlighted that despite a previous 1993 order granting maintenance to Shanthi, the trial judge concluded that she had exhibited cruelty towards her husband, which ultimately led to the divorce being granted to Balasubramanian.

The High Court affirmed that the Additional District Judge had appropriately overturned the trial court's decision, emphasizing that Shanthi alone could be recognized as the lawful wife of Balasubramanian, also known as Anwar Hussain.

Citing the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2000), where a division bench ruled that a man's second marriage after converting to Islam without dissolving the first marriage is punishable under penal law, the single judge bench concluded that only Shanthi and her daughter, as the lawful wife and legitimate daughter of the deceased, were entitled to perform customary religious rites in their capacity.

However, the court emphasized that since the deceased had passed away as a Muslim, it was imperative that he be buried in accordance with Islamic rites and customs.

Case Title: A.Abdul Malik v. The District Collector, Sivagangai and Others with connected matter

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