(2002) 7 SCC 518
|DATE OF JUDGMENT|
01st OCTOBER, 2002
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
STATE OF UP. & ORS.
R.C. LAHOTI & P. VENKATARAMA REDDI. JJ
Code of Civil Procedure.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Shamim Ara v. State of Uttar Pradesh represents a watershed moment in Indian Muslim family law. The Court’s decision that unilateral divorce without informing the wife is not a lawful divorce under Muslim law provides substantial protection for Muslim women. A simple talaq petition in response to the wife’s maintenance processes cannot be considered a pronouncement of talaq, and the husband’s need to pay maintenance to his wife does not end such communication. To be meaningful, talaq must be presented in accordance with the Quranic mandate. The ruling of the Court also underscores the significance of due process in all legal matters, including family law disputes.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- Shamim Ara and Abrar Ahmad were married in 1968, and they had four sons. In 1979, the appellant filed a complaint under Section 125 Cr.P.C. for desertion and cruelty from her husband. The Presiding Judge of the Family Court at Allahabad refused to grant maintenance, stating she was already divorced and not entitled to any. However, one son was allowed Rs.150/- per month for minor periods, while the other became major during proceedings.
- Respondent no.2 denied the application under Section 125 Cr.P.C., claiming that he divorced the appellant on 11.7.1987 and since then, the parties have ceased to be spouses. He also claimed protection under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, and that respondent no.2 had purchased a house for the appellant in lieu of Mehar (Dower), thereby denying the appellant any maintenance rights.
- The appellant denied being divorced at any time, while respondent no.2 claimed to have divorced her on 11.7.1987 in front of Mehboob and other neighborhood people. He claimed he had not paid anything to the appellant or any of the four sons for their maintenance since 1988. The Family Court upheld a strange story of divorce beyond the case set up by respondent no.2. The Presiding Judge referred to an affidavit from 31.8.1988, which stated that respondent no.2 had divorced the appellant 15 months before. The judge concluded that the appellant was not entitled to any maintenance due to her divorce.
- The appellant sought a revision before the High Court, which ruled that the divorce given by respondent no.2 was not given in the appellant’s presence and was not communicated to her. The communication was completed on 5.12.1990, and the appellant was entitled to claim maintenance from 1.1.1988 to 5.12.1990. The High Court appointed a maintenance figure of Rs.200/-, after which her entitlement to maintenance from respondent no.2 would cease.
- The appellant has also filed this appeal with the Hon’ble Supreme Court on special leave.
- Whether the appellant can be said to have been divorced by the respondent and the said divorce has been communicated and become effective 5.12.1990, the day when the respondent submitted the written statement in these proceedings?
- The legality of triple talaq: In Muslim law, triple talaq is a type of quick and irreversible divorce. It is stated by the spouse asserting the word “talaq” three times, either all at once or over time. Shamim Ara said that triple talaq was arbitrary and discriminatory against Muslim women, infringing on their fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution.
- The state’s involvement in controlling Muslim personal law: The Indian Constitution protects religious freedom, which includes the right to follow one’s own religious rules. However, the state must also play a role in ensuring that personal laws do not infringe on citizens’ basic rights. Shamim Ara said that triple talaq violated Muslim women’s fundamental rights and that the state owed them protection.
- The interpretation of Muslim personal law: Muslim scholars differ in their views on the interpretation of Muslim personal law. Shamim Ara stated that the Supreme Court should adopt a progressive interpretation of Muslim personal law that takes into consideration evolving societal requirements and women’s rights.
CONTENTIONS OF APPELANT
- None of the old Muslim holy texts or sacred writings specify in their substance the sort of separation recognized by the High Court and the Family Court.
- No such content has been brought to our consideration that states that a recital in any report, regardless of whether arguing or an affidavit, incorporated a statement by the husband that he has effectively separated from his wife on an unspecified or specified date regardless of whether not imparted to the wife would turn into a powerful separation on the date on which the wife ends up learning of such statement would turn into a powerful separation on the date on which the wife ends up learning of such statement.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
- The respondent has made a number of broad allegations against the appellant’s wife. He claims that after the marriage, he discovered his wife to be bright, clever, and evil.
- The specifics of the alleged talaq are not contested, nor are the circumstances and persons, if any, in whose presence the talaq was stated.
- There are no valid causes for talaq and no plea or proof that any attempt at compromise occurred before to the talaq.
The respondent’s written statement of divorce lacked proof since the facts of talaq were not argued. The circumstances and those present when the talaq was proclaimed on 11.7.1987 were likewise not reported. There were no justifications for talaq and no evidence that an effort of reconciliation was undertaken before the talaq.
The talaq must be proclaimed for it to be effective. The term “pronounce” implies to announce, officially utter, rhetorically utter, enunciate, and declare. There is no evidence that talaq occurred on 11.7.1987.
The correspondence was upheld by the high court as talaq, and its copy was provided to the wife. The Supreme Court’s Judges ruled that a simple written petition as divorce having been pronounced in the past cannot be recognized as effectuating talaq.
A prior divorce plea accepted as a written statement cannot be considered a talaq pronouncement by the husband to the wife on the day of filing the written statement followed by delivery of the copy to the wife.
The respondent did not provide proof that the talaq was effective.
In this decision, the Supreme Court concluded that the condition precedent for the efficacy of divorce is the pronouncement of divorce, which must be proven by evidence. Taking a plea in a written statement that the spouse divorced the petitioner in the past would not result in a divorce being granted. A comparable remark made in an affidavit by the husband in another case in which the wife was not even a party could not be considered proof of divorce completed.
This decision is likely to deter Muslim spouses from using divorce as a trump card to fight the wife’s maintenance demand. He must now demonstrate reconciliation attempts, establish sufficient reasons, and present two witnesses in whose presence talaq was declared.
In a recent case, Saira Bano v. Mohd. Aslam Ghulam Mustafa Khan Sherwani, the same legal point was addressed as in the current case. The following viewpoint expressed by A. Palkar J. is consistent with Judge Lahoti’s decision in Shamim Ara:
“The Forum of judicial proceedings cannot be used for declaring existence or cessation of legal relationship between the parties and, therefore, in our view mere contention in the written statement or in any application or in plaint by itself cannot be accepted to be either an acknowledgment of divorce already given especially even without deciding upon the validity and legality of the earlier divorce. It can never be said to mean a fresh declaration of divorce from the date of such assertion being made in the proceedings or even from the date when it is stated in the proceedings.”
Therefore, the respondent shall remain liable to pay maintenance until the obligation ends under the law. The respondent shall endure the costs of this appeal.
The Supreme Court ruled that a simple talaq petition in response to the wife’s maintenance processes cannot be considered a pronouncement of talaq, and the husband’s need to pay maintenance to his wife does not end such correspondence. To be meaningful, talaq must be presented in accordance with the Quranic mandate.
As a result, the appeal was granted. On December 5, 1990, the marriage was declared undissolved. Neither the husband’s obligation nor the wife’s liability was terminated. This liability will persist until the duty is fulfilled in line with the law. The appeal was approved and ordered to be borne by the spouse.
On October 1, 2002, the Supreme Court of India ruled in the matter of Shamim Ara versus the State of UP that triple talaq, which is a type of quick and irrevocable divorce in Muslim law, is unconstitutional. The Court ruled that triple talaq is arbitrary and discriminatory against Muslim women and that it violates their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including the right to equality before the law, the right to life and liberty, and the right to be free from discrimination.
The Court also found that the state has a role to play in regulating Muslim personal law, but that it must do so while respecting Muslims’ religious freedom. The Court’s ruling in Shamim Ara was a watershed moment in Indian legal history. It was the Supreme Court’s first intervention to regulate Muslim personal law. Women’s rights organizations applauded the Court’s ruling, although some Muslim organizations criticized it. The Shamim Ara case had a huge influence on Muslim women’s lives in India. It made it more difficult for Muslim males to divorce their spouses unilaterally, and it provided stronger legal protection to Muslim women. The case also triggered a discussion regarding the state’s role in regulating religious personal laws. In 2017, the Supreme Court of India confirmed the judgment in Shamim Ara and declared triple talaq unlawful in the case of Shayara Bano versus Union of India. The Court ruled that triple talaq violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which ensures equal protection under the law.
The verdict in Shamim Ara and Shayara Bano by the Supreme Court represents a huge step forward for women’s rights in India. It has safeguarded Muslim women against the arbitrary and discriminatory practice of triple talaq.
Written by Bhoomi sharma an intern under legal vidhiya.