New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday permitted an intervention application by the Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind contending that Muslim personal law was protected by the right to freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution and there was sufficient protection for women's rights under it.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice AK Sikri and Justice R Banumathi permitted the organisation of Muslim clerics to intervene in the matter relating to gender equality of Muslim women that was directed to be taken up a PIL by one of the benches of the top court.
Senior counsel Huzefa Ahmedi, appearing for the Jamaat, said that Muslim Personal Law was protected by Article 25 of the Constitution and it could only be interfered by the parliament and not the judiciary.
Article 25 guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion says: "Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion."
Ahmedi said that under Muslim personal law, women have sufficient rights and the court should not interfere with it.
Since Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was not present during the hearing and the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has yet to take a position, the court adjourned the matter for six weeks.
A bench of Justice Anil R Dave and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had by their 16 October, 2015 order issued notice to Rohatgi and NALSA as it directed the separate listing of a PIL addressing the question of the rights of Muslim women.
Referring to the suggestion by some lawyers that a separate PIL may be registered to go into the question of rights of Muslim women, the court had said: "We are of the view that the suggestion needs consideration in view of earlier decision of this court. The issue has also been highlighted in recent articles appearing in the press on this subject."
While directing a separate PIL, the court had referred to an "important issue of gender discrimination" which was not connected with the matter being dealt by the court but was raised by some lawyers concerning the rights of Muslim women.
The court noted the submission by the lawyers which said that "inspite of guarantee of the constitution, Muslim women are subjected to discrimination. There is no safeguard against arbitrary divorce and second marriage by her husband during currency of the first marriage, resulting in denial of dignity and security to her".
The court by its 16 October order had noted that several times the issue of safeguarding the Muslim women from arbitrary divorce had come up before the court but every time it was said that since the challenge to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 was pending before the constitution bench, there was "no reason to multiply proceedings on such an issue".
The court's view came in the second part of its judgment in a batch of matters on the issue whether Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, had retrospective effect.
Urging the court to consider the issue of the rights of Muslim women, it was pointed out by the lawyers that the "matter needs consideration by this court as the issue relates not merely to a policy matter but to fundamental rights of women under articles 14, 15 and 21 and international conventions and covenants".