Jury system for Parsi matrimonial disputes: SC hearing in Feb

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to list a plea challenging several provisions of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 providing a system of jury comprising community members to decide the matrimonial disputes.

A Bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli said it would hear the matter in February on an advocate mentioning it for the listing.

The top court had issued notice on the plea filed by a woman, Naomi Sam Irani, in December 2017 that the provisions of the Act violate Article 14(right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty). She cited the top court’s verdict declaring the triple talaq by Muslim men as unconstitutional and violative of the Muslim women’s right to live with dignity.

In her petition, Naomi said the procedure under the 1936 personal law of Parsis is exasperatingly cumbersome, involving a system akin to a jury decision, and grants no access to mediation and settlement as available to the Hindu women under the family court system.

The petition stated that the five delegates, for all practical purposes, are a jury, as their verdict on facts is final and no appeal allowed, dubbing it as “archaic.” The petitioner said it pre-dated Independence and abolition of the jury system “in our criminal jurisprudence in the 1960s” which cannot be retained for one community alone. She described the drawbacks of the jury system, because of which it was abolished in India.

“The jury delegates adjudicate a divorce petition based on their personal notion of the societal norms, morality and ethics, which may not sync with the principles of natural justice and the ethos and dynamics of society,” the petition added.

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