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Muslim Women Must Go To Courts For Divorce; Not Shariat Councils, Says Madras HC

Swarajya Staff

Feb 01, 2023, 01:24 PM | Updated 01:23 PM IST

Madras High Court
Madras High Court

The Madras High Court on Monday ruled that Muslim women must approach only family courts and not “private” bodies like Shariat Councils in order to seek “Khula” (divorce).

Khula is a type of divorce under Muslim Personal Law which is initiated by the woman.

A bench led by Justice C Saravanan quashed a Khula certificate issued by a Shariat Council of Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, Chennai, and directed the estranged couple to approach the Tamil Nadu Legal Services Authority or a Family Court to resolve their dispute. The Court also declared Khula certificates issued by any such private body invalid.

The Court observed that “while it is open for a Muslim woman to exercise her inalienable rights to dissolve the marriage by Khula recognized under the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, it cannot be before a self-declared body consisting of a few members of Jamath.”

The bench also noted a previous judgment by the Madras High Court itself, where in the Badar Sayeed vs Union of India case, it had restrained private bodies and religious officials such as Kazis from issuing certificates dissolving marriages by Khula.

The bench further said that only family courts are empowered under Section 7(1)(b) of the Family Courts Act, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, and the Muslim Personal Law to dissolve marriages.

While rejecting the opposing plea which cited a Kerala High Court judgment upholding Khula divorce, Justice Saravanan said that “it upheld only the Muslim woman’s right to unilaterally divorce through Khula, but has not endorsed the involvement of private bodies like the Shariat Council."

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