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Monday, May 20, 2024

SC to hear Muslim woman’s plea challenging Shariat inheritance law


The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Union of India and the State of Kerala, on a writ petition seeking that a person who was born a Muslim but is a non-believer, would not be governed by the Shariat law.

The petition was filed by a Kerala-based Muslim Lady Safiya PM, challenging provisions of the Muslim law of inheritance saying that she was not a believer and hence should be governed by the Indian Succession Act 1925 to inheritance instead of the Muslim Personal Law.

The petitioner is the President of an organization of Ex-Muslims.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, after elaborate discussions, decided to issue notice to the Union and State on the petition, terming it an “important issue”.

The bench requested Attorney General R Venkataramani to nominate a law officer to assist the court. The matter will be posted next in the second week of July 2024.

The bench initially was of the view that how can the Court give a declaration regarding the non-applicability of personal law to a person under Article 32 of the Constitution, when the petitioner has not challenged any statutory provision.

The bench also expressed reservations at the petitioner’s proposition that the Shariat Act won’t govern a non-believer. “The moment you are born as Muslim you are governed by the personal law. Your rights or entitlement are not governed by being a believer or non-believer,” CJI Chandrachud said.

Appearing for the Petitioner Advocate Prashant Padmanabhan submitted that as per the personal law, a Muslim person cannot bequeath more than 1/3rd of his properties by way of Will. He pointed out that the petitioner’s father is also not a believer.

The Lawyer said that Muslim women are entitled to only 1/3rd of the share of male heirs.

The CJI pointed out that as per Section 3 of the Shariat Act, a person has to make a specific declaration to be governed by the Shariat law. The Court also pointed out that Section 58 of the Indian Succession Act states that the Succession Act will not apply to Muslims.

Therefore, a void may be created if a declaration as sought by the petitioner is granted. The bench also pointed out that the petitioner has not challenged Section 58 of the Indian Succession Act.

Padmanabhan stated that the petitioner was in a “peculiar situation.” Her father cannot bequeath more than 1/3d of the property to her. The remaining 2/3rd will go to her brother who was suffering from Down’s syndrome.

The counsel further stated that the petitioner had a daughter. After the petitioner’s death, the entire property will not go to her daughter as her father’s brothers will also get a claim.

When the bench asked how can the Court give a declaration under Article 32, Padmanabhan replied that Article 25 of the Constitution gives the right to be a non-believer as well and the Court has wide powers to give such a declaration.

“You are born a Muslim. Section 58 of the Indian Succession Act said it would not apply to Muslims. Even if you don’t make a declaration under Section 3 of the Sharia Act, there is no secular act on wills and legacies by Muslims.

You don’t have to seek that declaration because Section 3 of the Shariat Act says unless you don’t make a declaration, then you will not be governed by personal law. But there is still a void, because if you don’t declare, then what will you be governed by?” CJI observed.

The Advocate replied that there is no provision if we do not want to be governed by sharia law. Article 25 means right not to believe also. My father is also not a believer and thus he will also not follow this

The Advocate replied that Section 58 is under examination in another petition filed by the Quran Sunnath Society in which the petitioner has also intervened.

Ultimately, the bench agreed to consider the matter. After the petitioner’s counsel said that he would raise the grounds regarding Section 58, the bench granted liberty to amend the petition.


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