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Madras High Court Upholds Polygamous Rights for Muslim Men, Stresses Equal Treatment of Wives

The Madras High Court ruled that Muslim men are allowed by Islamic law to perform polygamy. However, they’re duty-bound to treat all wives equally. The court made this judgment while upholding the divorce decree of a Family court in Tirunelveli.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has upheld the dissolution of marriage granted by the Family Court in Tirunelveli, marking a crucial verdict in a case filed under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.

The court also observed that a Muslim husband, who is legally permitted to have more than one wife, has to treat all his wives equally as per Islamic law.

The court’s decision was based on a family court order in Tirunelveli, which dissolved the marriage on grounds of cruelty. The petitioner, who was the first wife of the man, had approached the Family Court in Tirunelveli, seeking dissolution of her marriage on the grounds of cruelty by her husband and the in-laws.

The petitioner, the first wife, had accused them of torturing and mental harassment. She also alleged that her husband had married another woman without her consent and was currently living with her.

Allegations ranged from inadequate care to deliberate exposure to allergenic food. The petitioner said that while she was pregnant, her husband and his family harassed her by giving her food she was allergic to. 

Moreover, the mother-in-law allegedly scolded her for not draping her saree properly when she was pregnant. After the wife had a miscarriage, the sister-in-law harassed her for not being able to bear a child. The petitioner further claimed that the husband always compared her with other people and disliked the food she prepared for him.

Fed up with all the harassment, the wife said that she left her matrimonial home. But the husband demanded her return and threatened her that he would remarry.

Despite the husband’s demand for her return, he proceeded to marry a second time, leading the court to conclude that he failed to fulfil his marital obligations.

The Family Court in Tirunelveli had granted her divorce, finding that the husband had failed to perform his marital duties and had treated her first wife unequally. 

“He (husband) has not treated the first wife and the second wife equally as required under the provisions of Islamic law. Under Islamic law, the husband is entitled to polygamous marriage; however, he has to treat all the wives equally.” the court said.

The bench of justices RMT Teeka Raman and PB Balaji upheld the husband accountable for not maintaining the first wife, even when she resided with her parents. 

The Madras High Court bench of justices RMT Teeka Raman and PB Balaji dismissed the husband’s appeal, upholding the family court’s decision to dissolve the marriage.

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