The Supreme Court has observed that relatives of a 'husband' cannot be accused of an offence under Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act.
On a preliminary analysis, it is clear that the appellant as the mother-in-law of the second respondent cannot be accused of the offence of pronouncement of triple talaq under the Act as the offence can only be committed by a Muslim man, the bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said while granting anticipatory bail to an accused.
Under Section 3 of the Act, a pronouncement of talaq by a Muslim husband upon his wife has been rendered void and illegal. Under Section 4, a Muslim husband who pronounces talaq upon his wife, as referred to in Section 3, is punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years.
In this case, the mother in law of the complainant was accused under the provisions of Section 498-A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act. She approached the High Court seeking anticipatory bail which was denied. While considering the appeal, the Apex Court bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, observed:
The provisions of Section 7(c) apply to the Muslim husband. The offence which is created by Section 3 is on the pronouncement of a talaq by a Muslim husband upon his wife. Section 3 renders the pronouncement of talaq void and illegal. Section 4 makes the Act of the Muslim husband punishable with imprisonment. Thus, on a preliminary analysis, it is clear that the appellant as the mother-in-law of the second respondent cannot be accused of the offence of pronouncement of triple talaq under the Act as the offence can only be committed by a Muslim man.
The court observed that an offence under the Act is by the Muslim man who has pronounced talaq upon his spouse, and not the appellant, who is the mother-in-law of the second respondent. The bench, while granting her pre-arrest bail observed that there is no bar on granting anticipatory bail for an offence committed under the Act, provided that the competent court must hear the married Muslim woman who has made the complaint before granting the anticipatory bail. It would be at the discretion of the court to grant ad-interim relief to the accused during the pendency of the anticipatory bail application, having issued notice to the married Muslim woman.
Case: Rahna Jalal vs. State of Kerala [Criminal Appeal No 883 of 2020 ]
Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee
Counsel: Adv Haris Beeran, Sr. Adv V. Chitambaresh, Adv Harshad V. Hameed, Adv G. Prakash