LHC dismisses a woman's petition
Islam allows men to marry up to four women at a time, but if you ask Pakistani women, many of them are likely to tell you that they fear the abuse of this liberty provided in the Shariah. That abuse comes in the shape of secret marriages. The man marries a second time without informing his first wife.
But now, the Lahore High Court has further clarified legal punishments in such cases. On Wednesday, it dismissed a decision take by a judicial magistrate who sentenced a man to jail for marrying a second time without informing his wife. The court categorically said that only a family court has the right to sentence husbands accused of secret second marriages.
The second marriage law in Pakistan is, of course, an old one. And this is what Ishrat Rasool relied on when she hauled her husband Muzaffar Nawaz to court for marrying a woman named Sitara Jabeen without seeking her permission on May 17, 2019.
Under Section 6(5) of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, Ishrat Rasool had the power to register a case against her husband. This section says that a man is required to submit written permission from his first wife if he wishes to marry another woman. If the husband is found guilty of violating the law, he can face up to one year in prison.
As if the law was not clear enough, on August 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pakistan also made it mandatory for a husband to obtain consent from his first wife or an arbitration council before marrying for the second time.
In Ishrat Rasool’s case, then, a judicial magistrate sentenced her husband to three months in jail and fined him Rs500,000. However, Lahore High Court’s Justice Amjad Rafiq rejected the magistrate’s decision and issued a five-page written verdict in a hearing today (Wednesday, September 16, 2021).
The Lahore High Court judge remarked that only family court has the right to hear Muslim Family Law Ordinance cases under Section (20) of the Family Court Act of 1964. The judicial magistrate was not legally allowed to sentence husbands like that. He dismissed the sentence and fine. The trial of such cases by magistrates is in violation of sub-section (2) of Article 175 of the Constitution, he said.