Home >Politics >Policy >SC seeks centre’s response on validity of jury system of divorce for Parsis
A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph has asked the centre to file its reply on the correctness of the legal provisions governing Parsi divorce. Photo: Mint
A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph has asked the centre to file its reply on the correctness of the legal provisions governing Parsi divorce. Photo: Mint

SC seeks centre’s response on validity of jury system of divorce for Parsis

The system of jury trial under criminal jurisprudence was abolished in 1959 but the process continues to govern Parsi divorce cases

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the centre’s response on a plea challenging the legal provisions governing the divorce process for the Parsi community wherein divorce is granted after trial by a five-member jury.

The system of jury trial under criminal jurisprudence was abolished in 1959 but the process continues to govern Parsi divorce cases. The sensational Nanavati murder trial had triggered an end to the jury system and was the last case to be tried under it in the year 1959.

A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph asked the centre to file its reply on the correctness of the legal provisions governing Parsi divorce.

The court was hearing a plea by a 33-year old Zoroastrian Irani woman Naomi Sam Irani who sought dilution of the provisions governing divorce under the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 (PMDA), holding them to be ‘discriminatory and violative of fundamental rights under the Constitution’.

Under the PMDA, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet nominates each jury member for a 10-year term. The matrimonial courts usually take years to reach a decision, making it a prolonged affair. The jury system is not practised under any other personal law.

Challenging the jury system for divorce as one that is outdated, the petitioner has claimed that there is no rationale for continuing with it as the courts hearing these cases are not equipped with facilities to deal with them. It has been submitted that no other codified statute places such restrictions and procedural embargoes to a matrimonial suit as placed under the PMDA.

The divorce provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, have been amended and are in consonance with the constitutional scheme in force in India, the petition held.

The petitioner, Naomi Sam Irani, claimed that the jury system was unfair as the jury members judge a case based on societal norms, morality and ethics, which may not be in consonance with the principles of natural justice.

The last time the apex court delved into personal laws of a religious community was when it declared the Islamic practice of triple talaq unconstitutional on 22 August. Justice Joseph, who will hear this case, had ruled for scrapping the practice of triple talaq.

The case is likely to be heard next week.

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