Stop ‘heinously patriarchal’ Muslim polygamy, says Gujarat HC

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Thursday made a strong pitch for a uniform civil code and called for the abolition of polygamy in Muslim society in India as it’s a “heinously patriarchal” act.

The court recommended an amendment of Muslim personal law saying that in this day and age, the practice of polygamy is often driven by selfish motives.

“On the basis of modern progressive thinking, India ought to shun the practice (of polygamy) and establish a uniform civil code,” said Justice JB Pardiwala, while adjudicating on a petition by a Muslim man who faced bigamy charges after marrying for a second time without his very first wife’s consent.

The man was charged ​under section 494 of the IPC, for bigamy, but his second marriage is valid as per Muslim Personal Law, so he could not be prosecuted for bigamy.

Justice Pardiwala had to quash the bigamy charges but while doing so, he said the practice of polygamy and unilateral talaq — without te wife’s consent — violates the provisions of the Constitution. He quoted Article 44 of Part IV of the Constitution, which mandates that the state ought to “endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory.”

“If the state tolerates this law, it becomes an accomplice in the discrimination of the female, which is illegal under its own laws,” the judge said.

The Quran forbids polygamy if the purpose to marry more than once is self-interest or sexual desire, Justice Pardiwala said. “… It’s for the maulvis and Muslim men to ensure that they do not abuse the Quran to justify the heinously patriarchal act of polygamy in self-interest,” the judge advised.

Citing history, Justice Pardiwala said that when the Quran allowed polygamy, it was for a reasonable reason. “The Quran allowed conditional polygamy to protect orphans and their mothers from an exploitative society… When men use that provision today, they do it for a selfish reason.”

The court said that abolition of polygamy in Hindu society was a progressive step and added that it could not be replicated for Muslims due to their “social backwardness then”. But now, in a much-changed changed socio-economic scenario, “polygamy is going into oblivion” and monogamy is becoming the reality, the court observed.

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