Friday 27 May 2022
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Supreme Court: Mother-in-law not responsible for triple talaq

The Supreme Court grants anticipatory bail to the woman accused of harassing her daughter-in-law who had lodged an FIR lodged in August 2020

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Making a significant remark in a case of validity of talaq-e-biddat (three ‘divorce’ pronouncements in quick succession at once aka triple talaq), the Supreme Court on Saturday said that a relative of the husband who pronounces triple talaq could not be considered an accused as the divorce-seeking man has committed the crime with the utterances. The apex court made this observation while granting anticipatory bail to a complainant’s mother-in-law.

The Supreme Court said further that there was no bar on granting anticipatory bail in triple talaq cases. The top court passed the while granting anticipatory bail to the woman accused of harassing her daughter-in-law, who had lodged an FIR lodged in August last year.

The Supreme Court bench headed by DY Chandrachud ruled that husband’s relatives could not be accused under the anti-triple talaq laws [the Women (Protection of Marriage Rights) Act]. The bench referred to the relevant sections of the act and also the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which relates to directions for the grant of bail to a person apprehending arrest.

“For the above reasons, we have come to the conclusion that on a true and harmonious construction of Section 438 of the CrPC and Section 7(c) of the Act, there is no bar on granting anticipatory bail for an offence committed under the Act, provided that the competent court must hear the married woman, who has made the complaint, before granting the anticipatory bail,” the bench, also comprising justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, said.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed against a Kerala High Court order, which had declined to grant anticipatory bail to the woman.

Referring to the provisions of the 2019 Act, the Supreme Court said, “The prohibition in Sections 3 and 4 is evidently one which operates in relation to a husband alone. This is supported by the Statement of Objects and Reasons accompanying the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 when it was introduced in the Parliament.” The court noted that under Section 3 of the Act, the pronouncement of “triple talaq” by a husband upon his wife has been rendered void and illegal while Section 4 deals with the punishment for the same.

The Supreme Court said that the man had divorced the plaintiff through the illegal means of talaq-e-biddat but his mother was not responsible for the act.

“Thus, on a preliminary analysis, it is clear that the appellant, as the mother-in-law of the second respondent (complainant woman), cannot be accused of the offence of pronouncement of “triple talaq” under the Act as the offence can only be committed by a man,” the Bench said.

The court said while it was granting bail to the mother-in-law of the offender, it is eager to hear out the divorced woman too. The order of anticipatory bail is at the discretion of the court.

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