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SC to hear pleas on polygamy, 'nikah halala' among Muslims

The PIL sought to declare the practices unconstitutional

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Thursday it will set up a fresh five-judge Constitution bench to hear the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of polygamy and 'nikah halala' among Muslims.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices Hima Kohli and J B Pardiwala was urged by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, who has filed a PIL on the issue, that a fresh five-judge bench was needed to be constituted as two judges of the previous bench-Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Hemant Gupta- have demitted office.

"We will form a bench," the CJI responded.

On August 30, a five-judge bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Hemant Gupta, Surya Kant, M M Sundresh and Sudhanshu Dhulia had made the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Minorities parties to the PILs and sought their responses.

Later, Justice Banerjee and Justice Gupta retired on September 23 and October 16 this year respectively giving rise to the need for re-constitution of the bench to hear as many as eight petitions against the practices of polygamy and 'nikah halala'.

Upadhyay, in his PIL, has sought a direction to declare polygamy and 'nikah halala' unconstitutional and illegal.

The apex court had in July 2018 considered the plea and referred the matter to a Constitution bench already tasked with hearing a batch of similar petitions.

The apex court had issued notice to the Centre on the petition filed by a woman named Farjana and tagged Upadhyay's plea to a batch of petitions to be heard by the Constitution bench.

The lawyer's petition sought declaring extrajudicial talaq a cruelty under Section 498A (husband or his relatives subjecting a woman to cruelty) of of the IPC. It claimed nikah halala is an offence under Section 375 (rape) of the IPC, and polygamy a crime under Section 494 (Marrying again during life-time of husband or wife) of the IPC, 1860.

The apex court, which on August 22, 2017 banned the age-old practice of instant 'triple talaq' among Sunni Muslims, had on March 26, 2018 decided to refer to a larger bench a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of polygamy and 'nikah halala'.

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