Karnataka High Court Advocates for Mutual Consent Divorce in Muslim Marriages

In a significant ruling, the Karnataka High Court has empowered family courts to accept applications for consensual divorce filed by Muslim couples, marking a progressive step in recognizing mutual consent within the framework of Islamic law.

The decision came in response to a case involving a Sunni Muslim couple who tied the knot on April 7, 2019, in Prayagraj and later decided to part ways amicably by signing a Mubarat agreement on April 3, 2021. Mubarat, an Islamic practice, allows for divorce through mutual consent of both parties. However, their plea was initially dismissed by a Bengaluru family court on April 21, 2022, on the grounds that the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, did not explicitly provide for the dissolution of marriage through mutual consent.

Challenging the family court’s decision, the couple approached the Karnataka High Court, arguing that the provisions of the 1939 Act, along with the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, and Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, should be interpreted to recognize and honor the Mubarat agreement they entered into, thus granting them a consensual divorce.

The division bench, consisting of Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice Anant Ramanath Hegde, cited precedents including the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Shayara Bano vs Union of India and the Karnataka High Court’s own ruling in Asif Iqbal vs Rafiah @ Feena. These cases supported the notion that Mubarat, as a form of divorce by mutual consent, is indeed acknowledged and respected within Muslim Personal Law.

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In their ruling, the justices emphasized that the family court’s initial refusal to consider the couple’s application for mutual consent divorce on the basis that they are Muslim was incorrect. The bench clarified that family courts are fully equipped to handle such applications, reinforcing the legitimacy of consensual divorce agreements like Mubarat within the Muslim community.

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