New Delhi: Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, the powerful body of Muslim clerics, has said that Muslim personal law flows from the Holy Quran and cannot be subjected to any scrutiny by the Supreme Court based on principles of the Constitution.
“Mohammedan law is founded essentially on the Holy Quran and this cannot fall within the purview of the expression ‘laws in force’ as mentioned in Article 13 of the Constitution, and hence its validity cannot be tested on a challenge based on Part-III of the Constitution (guaranteeing fundamental rights, including right to equality),” the JUH application filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool said.
The assertion by the body marks a fierce challenge to the intent to extend the principle to gender equality to Muslim women and can open a fresh phase in the debate on whether personal laws based on religion can trump the Constitution. The debate will require the BJP-led government to spell out its stand on the fraught issue.
Last year, while entertaining a petition, a two-judge bench of Justices A R Dave and Adarsh Goel had directed registration of a separate PIL to consider the rights of Muslim women as there was no safeguard against arbitrary divorce (triple talaq) and second marriage by Muslim men during subsistence of their first marriage. The court had issued notice to the attorney general and National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa).
On Friday, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi took up the petition titled ‘Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality’ and agreed to make JUH a party to the proceedings and sought responses from the JUH, the AG and Nalsa on the questions posed by the SC in six weeks. All India Muslim Personal Law Board is also expected to request the SC to make it a party in the case.
The JUH also referred to Article 44, which figures as a provision in the Constitution, providing that the state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.
But the JUH said, “Article 44 envisaging UCC is only a directive principle and is not enforceable. This article by implication recognizes the existence of different codes applicable to different religions in matters of personal law and permits their continuance until the state succeeds in its endeavour to secure for all citizens a UCC.”
It said the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, a legislation brought by the Rajiv Gandhi government to step around the SC directed equality in maintenance for Muslim women in Shah Bano case, provided for the rights of Muslim women in matters of divorce and maintenance.