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Kerala High Court: Registrars can now directly record talaq, ending a legal void

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by News Desk

Issue: 

The Kerala High Court has allowed registrars to directly register talaq, closing a legal void.

Facts of the Case:

In a recent decision, the Kerala High Court ruled that Muslim women wishing to get a divorce through talaq do not need to register with the court. The case that gave rise to the ruling involved a lady who registered with the Registrar for Births, Deaths, and Marriages after obtaining a talaq certificate from the Mahal Khazi. The petitioner went to court to get a direction when the Registrar refused to record the divorce, alleging a lacuna in the Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules, 2008.

Arguments Presented:

The Court noted that divorced Muslim women were at a disadvantage as compared to males and addressed the deficiency in the 2008 Rules. It brought to light the inequality wherein divorced Muslim males may remarry without changing their marriage record entry, while women had to go to the court to have their entry removed. The Court questioned whether it was just to subject Muslim women exclusively to this extra legal procedure. It said that the ability to record a divorce under personal law might be regarded as inherent and auxiliary if the ability to register marriages existed.

Judgement Delivered:

Underpinning the case was Justice PV Kunhikrishnan’s ruling that Muslim women do not have to appear in court to register talaq if the divorce is in compliance with personal law. The Court stressed that the ability to register a divorce is synonymous with the authority to register a marriage, meaning that a separate court decision is not required. The ruling cited General Clauses Act, 1897, Section 21, which permits Registrars to record divorces acquired via talaq without a judge’s approval. The 2008 Rules’ legal void was another issue that the Court ordered lawmakers to resolve.

Regarding the particular instance, the Court instructed the Registrar to take into account the petitioner’s request for divorce registration and notify the spouse. Muslim women who are divorcing might expedite their divorce procedure by having the Registrar enter the relevant information into the Register of Marriage if the husband acknowledges the divorce.

Case title: Neyan Veettil Behsana v. Local Registrar for Births and Deaths & Marriages
Written by: Nikita Shankar @nikitaashankar

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