Plea on Qazis' power goes to higher bench
A petition filed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking to declare that Qazis (Islamic Judge) are not empowered to certify talaq (Muslim divorce) has been transferred to the principal bench in Chennai since a similar petition is pending before it.
In her public interest litigation petition, Sulthan Rishwana Banu of Madurai pointed out that as per Islamic personal law men could divorce their spouses by pronouncing the ‘talaq’ thrice. This talaq was certified as valid by the Qazis. Banu contended that in other religions women have been sufficiently protected by necessary legislations against arbitrary divorce. In contrast, Muslim women in India have been subjected to unilateral and arbitrary divorce by their husbands.
The State had not taken any steps to codify Islamic law though it is provided that the State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens equality before the law.
According to Banu, several Muslim men, even without the knowledge of the wives are pronouncing talaq thrice and also represent to the Qazis that they have pronounced talaq and have obtained certificate to the said effect to divorce their wives.
Petitioner said though the Qazis were once upon a time judicial authorities under Muslim personal law, their powers were taken over by Civil Courts during the colonial period. Since then they have not been vested with powers of adjudication as per the provisions of the Qazis’ Act 1880. The said Qazis Act does not confer administrative or judicial power to the Qazis and they have no power to issue certificates recognising divorces based on talaq. Hence the petitioner sought a direction restraining the chief Qazi and the Qazis under him in TN from issuing any certificate of approval for divorces based on the uttering of talaq.