In a significant ruling, the Madras High Court upheld the annulment of a marriage on December 22, 2023, emphasising that while Islamic Law permits polygamy, it mandates equal treatment of all wives. The bench, comprising Justices Rmt. Teekaa Raman and Justice PB Balaji, dismissed an appeal filed by the husband against the Family Court’s judgment that dissolved the marriage under Section 2(ii)(iv)(viii)(a)(d) of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.
The Court asserted that the wife convincingly demonstrated that her husband treated her unfairly in comparison to his second wife, neglecting care, support, and marital commitments after their separation while she resided with her parents.
The judges observed, “Under Islamic Law, the husband is entitled to polygamous marriage; however, he has to treat all the wives equally.”
Advocate K. Abiya represented the appellant, Mukmuthu Sha, while Advocate C. Jeya Indira Patel represented the respondent, Afrin Banu.
The case unfolded with the first wife alleging harassment from her husband, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, citing neglect during pregnancy, food allergies, and cruelty following a miscarriage. She detailed instances where she faced scolding for not draping a saree properly during pregnancy and accused her husband of taking inappropriate photos. Despite the birth of a child, who tragically died the next day, the husband’s sister allegedly abused the wife, suggesting another marriage for the husband due to her inability to bear a child.
The first wife further accused her spouse of unfair comparisons and emotional abuse, leading her to leave the matrimonial home. Despite the husband’s denial of these allegations, the court’s scrutiny of the evidence revealed cruelty and neglect toward his first wife and a failure to fulfill marital obligations.
The High Court concurred with the Tirunelveli Family Court’s verdict, highlighting the husband’s unequal treatment and failure to support his first wife as justifications for the marriage’s dissolution. The Bench, therefore, dismissed the husband’s appeal, upholding the initial decision and setting a precedent for the importance of equal treatment in polygamous unions under Islamic Law.
This ruling not only reinforces the legal principle of equality within polygamous marriages but also serves as a reminder of the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly in cases involving marital disputes governed by personal laws.