The Supreme Court on April 21 directed the Orissa government to provide police protection to a Muslim couple who were forced to separate after local clerics issued a fatwa that they were divorced even though they wanted to live together.
The husband of petitioner Nazma Biwi had pronounced triple talaq in an inebriated condition in 2004 but later realising his mistake, he decided to live with his wife and three children. However, local clerics at Bhadrak issued a fatwa that they were divorced and hence could not live together. Thereafter, the couple was forced to live separately by the community.
?No one can force them to live separately. This is a secular country. All communities?Hindus or Muslims?should behave in civilised manner?, a bench of Justice Ruma Pal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice Markandey Katju observed. The observation came after the petitioner'scounsel complained that the couple continue to be ostracised by the Muslim community at Bhadrak in Orissa.
Orissa government counsel Shibo Shanker Mishra sought two weeks to file reply to Nazma'spetition and the court obliged. Earlier, Nazma had approached the High Court against the fatwa and had sought police protection from her community men who were allegedly harassing the couple.
The incident had created a nation-wide controversy with various women organisations and civil society groups taking up cudgels on behalf of the harassed couple. The clerics had said that if Nazma wanted to live with her husband, she must perform halala (she must marry another man and the marriage must be consummated, after which she can get a divorce and then re-marry her first husband).
However, Nazma refused to do so, and instead knocked at the doors of the court.