SC seeks Centre’s response on validity of Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the government’s response on a petition questioning the validity of Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act that follows a jury system to decide matrimonial disputes.

A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph did not issue a formal notice but asked the petitioner’s lawyer, Neela Gokhale to provide a copy of the petition to additional solicitor general Atmaram Nadkarni for his assistance in the matter.

“Serve a copy of the petition to the ASG to know his views,” the bench ordered even as it showed reluctance in entertaining the plea.

“Don’t you think it will amount to legislation?” the court asked Gokhale who said the petitioner – Naomni Sam Irani – got encouraged to move the top court after its judgement in the instant triple talaq case.

“This (law) is in existence since 1936. You move the court after so many years and the concept of court here is that it’s a court of the people,” the judges said, telling the counsel that Parliament will be a better platform to highlight the issue.

But on Gokhale’s persuasion the court agreed to seek ASG’s view and said it will examine next week Irani’s plea questioning the validity of provisions of the pre-independence era Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act. The lawyer pointed out how a delegate – who is akin to a jury member – lauded Irani’s efforts to raise the issue before the top court.

Irani claimed in her petition that the procedure made estranged couples of her community go through a torturous exercise to get divorce.

The petitioner had moved a Parsi matrimonial suit early last year before the Bombay high court seeking dissolution of her 11-year-old marriage. She has a 10-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter.

Irani’s petition arises out of her experience as a litigant. According to her the procedure under the personal law was cumbersome, involving a jury system. There is no access to mediation and settlement as is available to Hindu women under the family court system.

In her case, she said, there has been no appointment of delegates to participate in the pending matrimonial proceedings, depriving her of speedy disposal of her case.”

Under the law special courts are set up in Kolkatta, Chenni and Mumbai and the chief justice of the HC concerned nominates a judge, who, aided by five delegate hears the dispute.

“These delegates… act like jury and the case is decided by majority decision. It is a fact that Parsi chief matrimonial court sits only once or twice a year… only for a short duration. In view of increase in divorce petitions, jury as a fact finding body practically impedes speedy justice,” Irani said and requested the SC to do away with the jury system.

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