A ruling by the Supreme Court, upholding as illegal the second marriage by a Muslim employee of Rajasthan Government without divorcing first wife, has kicked off a major controversy. Muslim clerics and leaders say this judgement would jeopardise the right of Muslims to have more than one marriage under the Muslim Personal Law.
A division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice VS Sirpurkar and Justice Aftab Alam, on January 25 dismissed the petition of Liyakat Ali, a former constable in the Rajasthan Police, challenging the judgement of the Rajasthan High Court, which said that under the Rajasthan Civil Services (conduct) Rules 1971 no Government employee, irrespective of his or her religion, is allowed to marry second time without the permission from the Government.
The State Government had terminated the services of Ali about 23 years ago on the ground that he had married second time without divorcing his first wife and without taking prior permission.
Ali has been contesting in various courts since 1986 that under the Muslim Personal Law, he is allowed to marry second time without taking the permission of the Government. He also maintained that he had divorced his first wife before his second marriage.
On the instructions of the lower courts, his case was investigated. The probe concluded that Ali got married to Maksuda Khatun without divorcing Farida Khatun, his first wife.
Mohammad Salim Engineer, leader of the Rajasthan Muslim Forum, says under the Muslim Personal Law, community has got certain rights. This law allows a Muslim to have second wife and this should be accepted by the Government. He wants that the State Government should amend its service rules in this regard.
Mujahid Naqvi of the Milli Council says the judgement is a direct interference in the religious rights of the Muslim community.
Manish Bhandari, who argued the case on behalf of the State Government, is of the opinion that relevant clauses of the service rules give more stress on disciplining its employees rather than interfering in any of their personal laws.