India’s Gujrat High Court on Thursday said Muslim men in the country were misinterpreting the Quran in order to marry more more than one woman for purely “selfish reasons”.
Jafar Abbas Merchant approached the high court following an FIR filed against him by his wife who claimed he got married to another woman without her consent.
According to section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), polygamy is a punishable act. However, Merchant in his plea said Islam allows men to have as many as four wives, thus the FIR against him is invalid.
During the hearing, the court, in reply to Merchant’s plea, said “The Quran is being misinterpreted by Muslim men for selfish reasons,” adding that the time had come for the country to embrace the uniform civil code.
“When the Quran allowed polygamy, it was for a fair reason. When men use that provision today, they do it for a selfish reason. Polygamy finds mention in the Quran only once, and it is about conditional polygamy,” the order said.
“Muslim Personal Law does not permit a Muslim man to treat his wife cruelly, drive her out of the matrimonial home and then get married for the second time. However, there is no law in this country which takes care of this situation. There is no uniform civil code in this country,” it added.
Further, stressing the need for a uniform civil code, the court directed the government to take necessary action.
“On the basis of modern, progressive thinking, India must shun the practice and establish uniform civil code,” the judgment stated.
And while the court observed that Muslim Personal Law violates India’s Constitutional provisions, it gave a verdict in Merchant’s favour, stating that it is allowed under the Muslim Personal Law but not the IPC.
“In view of the above, so far as the offence punishable under Section 494 of IPC is concerned, I am left with no other option but to accept the submission that Merchant cannot be prosecuted for the offence punishable under Section 494 of IPC. To this extent, the petition will have to be allowed and is, accordingly, allowed,” the judge said.
Further, the court regardless of its verdict said, “There is no codification by the legislation of marriages amongst the Muslims, polygamy is not encouraged and is an exception and not a rule. It is not the fundamental right of a Muslim to have four wives.”
This article originally appeared on Hindustan Times