By Our Legal Correspondent
A bench, comprising Justice K T Thomas and Justice R P Sethi, issued notices to the Union government and the petitioner's husband.
Petitioner's counsel Lily Thomas said, "The custom and usage of polygamy and extra-judicial divorce allowed to be practised by Muslims is a denial of equality, personal liberty and human rights guaranteed to all citizens by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution".
Having been given talaq (divorce by uttering the word talaq thrice) by her husband, the petitioner said the Hindu community is governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which prohibits polygamy and extra-judicial divorce.
The petitioner, who had married Fazal in 1989 at the age of 20, was a direct casualty of polygamy, the counsel said, adding she had refused to stay with her husband when he married another woman in 1991.
The petitioner said once the talaq was granted, her erstwhile husband moved for cancellation of grant of maintenanance to her, which was being given from 1993 at the rate of Rs 400 per month. The Madhya Pradesh High Court allowed the husband's application.
Drawing the apex court's attention to the new development of "telegraphic talaq" as published in a newspaper, the petitioner said it would put the lives of several Muslim women in jeopardy. Among other things, the petitioner sought issuance of a writ under Article 32 of the Constitution "declaring that polygamy practised by Muslim community is illegal, unconstitutional and void to be simultaneously substituted by monogamy."
Seeking equality with Muslim men, the petitioner requested the court to declare that "dissolution of marriage under Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, can be invoked equally by either spouse." It also requested the court to strike down provisions relating to "talaq, ila, zihar, lian, khula etc.," which allowed extra-judicial divorce in Muslim personal law.
She said her plea before the Supreme Court for restoration of the maintenance was pending since 1999 and since then she was "living in a state of penury".