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As the Supreme Court re-opened, on Monday (July 2), following its annual 44-day-long summer vacation, Chief Justice Dipak Misra expressed his displeasure at the controversial but reformist petition challenging the practice of Nikah Halala among a section of Muslims not being mentioned for hearing before the vacation benches of the apex court.

As hearing of matters began in Court Number 1 before the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, senior advocate V Shekhar and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, appearing for one of the Delhi-based petitioners – Sameena Begum – alleged that she was under pressure to withdraw her petition challenging the abominable practices of ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among a section of Muslims. Sameena Begum’s counsels told the bench that she was receiving anonymous threats because of the petition filed by her.

While the court instructed Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to file a response to the petition, Sameena Begum’s lawyers urged that the matter be listed before a five-judge constitution bench.

The bench responded: “We will look into it.”

However, Chief Justice Dipak Misra also questioned why mentioning of the important petition was being done today (on July 2) and wasn’t done during the vacations.

The Chief Justice then said that matters mentioned during the vacation will be listed during the current and following week.

‘Nikah halala’ is a practice intended to curb the incidence of divorce (particularly instant triple talaq which was outlawed by the Supreme Court through a historic verdict last year) under which a man cannot remarry his former wife without her having to go through the process of marrying someone else, consummating it, getting divorced and observing a separation period called ‘Iddat’ before coming back to him.

The Centre, in line with its stand against instant triple talaq, is set to oppose the practice of nikah halala in the apex court and has, according to sources, instructed Attorney General KK Venugopal to finalise strident arguments against the practice that can be made in the Supreme Court once hearing on the petition commences.

Sources say that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is of the firm view that opposing the practices of nikah halala and polygamy is a natural corollary to the Centre’s efforts towards banning talaq-e-biddat (instant triple talaq). More importantly, Prime Minister Modi believes that assertions against these practices would endear the saffron party, known for its a hardline Hindutva image, to women of the Muslim community and help the BJP reap incremental electoral benefits during the 2019 general elections.

—With Agency inputs, India Legal Bureau

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